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Venezuela’s Pebble Toad Gathers No Moss

This article is part of our series on unusual animals in South America.

When faced with danger, most animals choose fight or flight. In Venezuela, the pebble toad takes the latter to a whole new level. To evade predators, this tiny frog rolls up into a ball and flings itself down the moist mountains of northern South America. Its haphazard descent is swift, effective, and, surprisingly, painless for the toad.

Because the pebble toad (Oreophrynella niger) is so tiny, less than an inch large and weighing next to nothing, it is able to survive seemingly traumatic falls without injury. The ingenious little fellow simply tenses his muscles, assumes the position, and embraces the abyss.

The pebble toad lives in tabletop mountains called tepui that rise out of the steamy South American rainforest. The combination of the jungle’s intense biodiversity and the isolation of the sandstone plateau create an interesting environment ripe for special flora and fauna adaptation.

The toad’s unique survival mechanism may be the main reason it's still around: Pebble toads are extremely poor jumpers and weak swimmers. Toads that tumble into deep water are likely to drown.

It’s a precarious life for the pebble toad, which is considered a vulnerable species.

In the wild, you’re unlikely to come across such a small and scarce creature. Luckily, we have the remarkable piece of nature filmography above to give us a close look at the pebble toad. The crew of BBC’s Life program captured the footage on Mount Roraima, a mystical tepui plateau situated at the juncture of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana.

Mount Roraima was the inspiration for the mountain featured in the cartoon movie UP. In real life the mountain is typically accessed by a multi-day trek (not a balloon).

Photo - Paulo Fassina

Keen to explore the table top mountains of Venezuela? Speak to one of our Destination Experts about crafting the bespoke South America tour.

Thanks to Paulo Fassina for the title image of this blog.

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