Exploding frogs- urban legend?

As is the case with many of my posts, I’m asking about something a friend insisted was true but couldn’t back up with real evidence. She said that putting a cigarette in a frog’s mouth will cause it to explode because the creatures can’t exhale through their mouths. Of course, she’d never actually witnessed this horror (although the conversation did lead to charming anecdotes about throwing frogs on electric fences). Has anyone, or is this a well known urban legend? If this is true, why?
(I apologize in advance if this has been covered before)

If I remember my high school biology lessions correctly, a frog doesn’t use a diaphram to force air in and out of the lungs like we do. Rather it takes air into its mouth (via its nostrils, I believe), then forces the air into the lungs with the muscles in its mouth and throat. It seems to me that if you have a cigarette (or anything else, really) propping its mouth open, it wouldn’t be able to breath as it couldn’t make an airtight seal. I’d expect the frog to simply spit the cigarette out and resume normal breathing in this case.

Bizarre. Never heard this one before. Did she say if the cigarette needed to be lit?

I have no idea whether it’s really true scientifically. I DO know that it was shown in a movie. In the film version of Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw,” Marlon Brando plays an evil servant who shows children how to blow up a frog in precisely this way.

It seemed bogus to me… but then, I’m not a herpetologist.

It’s untrue.

This site shows a diagram of frog respiration (including an animation).

If a frog’s mouth was propped open by a cigarette, it wouldn’t be able to fill the lungs at all, since the throat pump mechanism requires a sealed chamber to work.

If alarmed, some frogs and toads will puff themselves up with air, but they won’t explode.

When we were kids we could get frogs to explode. However, instead of a cigaret, we used a firecracker.

They blowed up real good.

Today, a friend related a story how her dad had once made a frog explode by merely blowing cigarette smoke on him. No actual manipulation was required, supposedly some component of the smoke itself causes the fatal overinflation. I called bullshit and got chewed out promptly for doubting her dad.

What’s the straight dope? Is there any evidence for the exploding frog phenomenon?

Still none. I have never heard of a frog exploding under any circumstances (with the exception of firecrackers or other use of force). I am unaware of any mechanism by which tobacco smoke would cause a frog to even inflate, let alone explode.

Did your friend claim to have actually seen this, or did her dad just tell her he did it? One of them is bullshitting.

They can puff up quite a lot, too. Our tomato frog can pretty much double in size all by itself.

Surprisingly, it is possible for a frog to explode. The way it happens is a bird attacks the frog trying to peck out its liver, and the frog does its normal defense mechanism of puffing up. Unfortunately for the frog, since it now has a gaping hole in its abdomen, the puffing up part causes it to explode rather dramatically, turning a lot of its internal organs into somewhat less functional external organs.

Blowing smoke on a healthy frog is just going to make him puff up and act all froggy. You can’t quite call BS on your friend’s dad though. If the frog was injured by a predator, it is possible that he could explode.

I’m not a frog expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it is my understanding that this sort of thing is pretty rare.

My dad told me if I didnt pull his finger, he would explode.

He told her he had done it when he was a child. I assume that a couple of decades down the road it’s quite possible to confuse things you actually experienced with stories you heard, though.

I consider you an authority on all things biological; thanks for weighing in. I was wondering if it involved nicotinergic receptors or something; like a reverse curare effect, if that makes any sense.

That’s why I qualified my answer with “other use of force.” A frog couldn’t generate enough internal pressure on its own to rupture its abdominal wall and skin. If its already ruptured then unfortunate consequences may result. Likewise you might be able to explode a frog by putting an airhose down its throat.

Experimental refutation that a smoking frog or toad will explode:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

The idea that frogs can explode goes back to ancient Greece–here’s a fable told by Aesop:

The Frog and the Ox

“Oh Father,” said a little Frog to the big one sitting by the side of a pool, “I have seen such a terrible monster! It was as big as a mountain, with horns on its head, and a long tail, and it had hoofs divided in two.”
“Tush, child, tush,” said the old Frog, “that was only Farmer White’s Ox. It isn’t so big either; he may be a little bit taller than I, but I could easily make myself quite as broad; just you see.” So he blew himself out, and blew himself out, and blew himself out. “Was he as big as that?” asked he.

“Oh, much bigger than that,” said the young Frog.

Again the old one blew himself out, and asked the young one if the Ox was as big as that.

“Bigger, father, bigger,” was the reply.

So the Frog took a deep breath, and blew and blew and blew, and swelled and swelled and swelled. And then he said: “I’m sure the Ox is not as big as this.” But at this moment he burst. Self-conceit may lead to self-destruction.
This used to be a well-known fable, much like everyone knows Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Frog_and_the_Ox

So maybe Aesop had seen frogs puffing themselves up?

Oh my. Kinda horrible, but relevant nevertheless. If it doesn’t blow up within 3 minutes, I guess it never will.

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Just today, I saw a NatGeo show on strange animal violence. In a swamp (I think Louisiana), crows go after frogs for their livers, which are high in protein. Ok, so they show some pretty gross footage of the crows pecking their way thru the frogs’ abdomens, yanking the liver out, and eating while the frog is still alive. So far, bad enough. But then, the crow punctures the frog’s lung - which causes the escaping air to puff up its skin, and the frog explodes! They actually show one being blown to bits (think of the exploding head scene in Scanners). Sux to be a Louisiana frog.
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