Video of a headless toad jumping around a Connecticut forest is making waves online after a researcher uploaded the footage to Twitter last week — and it’s left scientists stumped.
The adult toad was discovered in 2016 by Jill Fleming, a herpetologist and University of Massachusetts student. It had a perfectly healthy-looking body and legs but was missing eyes, a nose, jaws and a tongue. It also had one small hole where its mouth should be.
Fleming recently uploaded the video of the hopping, faceless toad on Twitter asking people to put forward their thoughts as to why it had a stump instead of a head.
“An apparently ‘faceless’ toad. Kept hopping into things. Had a small mouth hole — maybe esphogus/glottis (no maxilla or mandible, I think)? It was early spring so I think it must have come out of brumation like this. Any thoughts herp Twitter?”
Fleming told National Geographic the faceless toad is a mystery but there could be a few possible explanations.
“My initial thought, which I still believe is a likely explanation, was that the extensive injury was inflicted by one of the toad’s many natural predators during hibernation,” she told the publication. “For whatever reason, the predator did not finish the job and the toad was able to become active again on that early spring day — amphibians are incredibly resilient.”
In response to Fleming’s tweet, wildlife veterinarian Lydia Franklinos suggested it could have been a parasite, called the flesh-eating toad fly larvae. This is when an adult fly lays eggs in the soft tissues of a toad. When the larvae hatch, they eat the toad’s flesh.
WATCH: Toad throws up ‘exploding’ beetle
So how does the toad jump around without a head?
Emily Taylor, a professor of biological sciences at California Polytechnic State University, told Live Science, even if a portion of the toad’s brain was gone, the brain stem can still keep the toad hopping.
“The brain stem governs many of the central and necessary parts of the rest of our bodies, like heart rate, digestion and other functions. So, theoretically, the body can survive with only that part of the brain, even though the parts of the brain associated with consciousness, memory and decision-making are gone,” Taylor told the publication.
This is exactly what happened in Colorado in 1945 when a farmer beheaded his chicken — but the bird lived for another 18 months.
“Mike the chicken” became famous and even went on tour, astounding people across the United States. The chicken was fed with liquid food and water that was dropped into his esophagus.
In terms of the headless toad’s future, unfortunately, Fleming doesn’t think it was alive much longer after she and her colleagues found it.
“It would not have been able to eat in this condition and was an easy target for predators,” she told National Geographic.