‘Very rare’ five-legged toad discovered with extra limb hanging off its backside

A super-rare mutant toad with five legs has been discovered, which experts say may be deformed due to an injury in its childhood.

It was found in Queensland, Australia, by Michael Messenger who recently spotted it bouncing in the plants outside his home.

Noticing there was something clearly different about this particular amphibian (which he said was about the same size as a hand), Michael grabbed his phone and took a snap.

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In fact, he tried to go one step further and catch it, planning to freeze it and preserve the extra leg, according to ABC.

The toad turned out to be too quick for Michael, although it didn't use the fifth appendage to gain an advantage.

"I don't think [the extra leg] has any function, it just drags behind, but it looks weird," he told ABC.

Macquarie University's Professor Rick Shine, an evolutionary biologist and ecologist, said five-legged toads are "very rare" but not unheard of.

"In the course of research we've handled many thousands of toads, I've probably seen it two or three times myself," he said.

He explained that an injury to the tadpole in its early stages of development can split limbs, meaning two develop instead of one.

He said: "Other animals have babies in utero or in eggs so they're protected, but tadpoles aren't.

"The tadpole is swimming around in the open and usually one parasite attacks the tadpole and injures the limb bud and you end up with two legs."

Professor Shine added that sightings of five-legged toads are made all the more rare by the fact that the extra limb is tough to drag along, making them more susceptible to predators.

The BBC reports that a five-legged toad was discovered in the UK in 2010.

Faye Sweeney, who spotted it at the Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire, said: "It reminded me of The Simpsons when they find the three eyed fish!"

The deformity can also occur in frogs and panicked scientists in the US and Canada in the 1990s when there was a spate of sightings.

Researchers concluded the culprit was a parasitic flatworm called Ribeiroia Ondatrae.

The larvae attach themselves to the underdeveloped limbs of tadpoles then harden and form a cyst, which splits the leg as it grows.

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