Episode 251 – Mossy Frog: Who’s the Dummy Now?

“…and today we’re talking about moss that grows fat on a rolling toad. But more on that later.”

Whether you’re a hungry predator or just a curious researcher, finding yourself a Vietnamese Mossy Frog isn’t going to be easy. They’re not only in the Disguisee family, but they can also deceive you with just their adorable little ribbit, leaving you to run around in circles, chasing your proverbial or literal tail, never to find found. But throwing your heart, skin, and voice into your getup is what being a master of disguise looks like here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Mossy Frog

  • It’s called mossy because it looks kind of like it’s covered in moss. It has a mottled green and brown pattern that makes it look like a slipper stream-side rock.
  • They have large heads that are about a third of the size of the rest of their bodies.
  • Their eyes are large and brown to dark green.
  • Females are generally larger than males.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at Gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro!


  • They are 61 mm (2.4 in) in snout–vent length on average. But females will grow larger than the males and can reach sizes 9 cm (3.5 in). 
  • How many female mossy frogs go into the tallest species of moss on earth?
  • Hint: Dawsonia superba is a species of moss that grows in Oceania. It grows extremely fast depending on the temperature and it is the tallest self-supported moss species because it has a similar structure to vascular plants.
  • 6.6 frogs. The moss can grow to 60 mm (2.3 inches).


  • 15 grams (0.5 oz)
  • How many mossy frogs go into The LARC-LX, the U.S. army’s largest 4×4 and the heaviest amphibious vehicle.
  • Hint: It operates with a crew of 5 and has a max speed of about 15 mph on land and 8 mph in the water. It can carry 100 tons of cargo or about 200 people.
  • 6,400,000 frogs. The vehicle is 100 tons. 

Fast Facts about the Mossy Frog

Diet. Its diet consists of crickets, cockroaches, and earthworms.

Range. Northern Vietnam, Central Laos, and Southern China.

Habitat. It likes evergreen rainforests in the subtropics. It can be found in hollow logs, pools, caves, and cliffs. 

Like your typical tree frog, they have sticky pads on their feet and soft bellies, allowing them to stick to surfaces. 

When they are threatened, they curl into a ball and play dead, perhaps doing their best impression of a rock.

Major Fact: Who’s the Dummy Now?

Mossy frogs not only utilize visual camouflage, but they also use sonic camouflage

They use a technique called “throwing your voice” which ventriloquists call “distant voice”

It seems like there’s a lot of misconception surrounding this technique and how it applies to these frogs

The consensus is that they can throw their voice, but since these frogs are so hard to observe (due to the whole voice throwing thing, no doubt), there isn’t a lot of info on it.

Some articles made it seem like it was magic. 

“They’re also known for their unique voice-they can throw it up to 10 and 13 feet. So, you may hear their voice from somewhere thinking they’re near when in fact they may be far away.” – Best Folk Medicine

That the frogs could literally project their voice from somewhere other than their location – like they were chucking a recording of themselves. The reality is that throwing your voice isn’t necessarily easy, it’s just not anything spectacular. It’s just like sleight of hand but for your voice.

In ventriloquism, you simply make your voice sound like it’s further away or muffled behind something and mask your lip movement to make it seem like you’re not the one making the sounds.

I watched a video where a guy held up a tin can and tried to make it seem like there was someone in there yelling to get out. Kinda goofy, but I can see it being effective.

The highest likelihood for the mossy frog is that they purposefully mute or muffle their cries to give predators the impression that they’re further away than they are. The best that throwing their voice can do is try and deter predators from their actual location. But that website’s description of predators hearing a sound closer than it actually is is impossible without some very specific acoustics like in the Capitol building.

Ending: So put on your best ghillie suit, stay elusive, and throw voices, not tantrums like the mossy frog here in LDT.