I visited the Chiricahua Mountains on the Arizona-Mexico border for a college research project in 2015. It’s considered one of the most biodiverse places in North America. After spending a week there wading the streams in search of hellgrammites, I’d also deem it as one of the coolest places on the continent.
The area is famous for the Chiricahua leopard frog—a federally threatened species that’s been on the decline due to habitat loss and invasive bullfrogs. A few years after my visit, a research team there was draining a pond when they made a shocking discovery. In one of their nets was the biggest tadpole ever documented. They named him Goliath.
Goliath was a bullfrog tadpole that never metamorphosed. At the time of his capture in 2018, he was larger than a soda can. Herpetologists are unsure why Goliath was stuck in tadpole limbo, but believe it is due to a hormone imbalance.
Goliath went on to live out his years at the Southwestern Research Station before dying earlier last week. He’ll be preserved by scientists so they can better understand what caused his mysterious condition. Goliath was a king among kings; a spectacle among a region filled with awe-inspiring critters.
Images via Earyn McGee.