Bay Area artist Mark Grieve has unearthed the fossilized remains of an enormous prehistoric species of frog beneath his Sebastopol studio.
Calling his extraordinary find “Megla Bufo Giganticus”—a breathlessly hyped scientific name that basically means “super gigantic frog”—Grieve has been showing it off to onlookers. The bones are certainly large. They’re also flattened, calling to mind the O.G. arcade game Frogger.
And, like X-rays, penicillin and Wite-Out, this intact skeleton’s discovery seems to have occurred entirely by accident. It’s not just some elongated froggy femurs, either.
Grieve and his team were initially just fixing the floor, but then stumbled upon an entire mythology of frog lore, from petroglyphs to Renaissance portraiture to a previously unknown frog constellation.
“Through subjective research and countless non-billable hours, my team and I have created one of the most intriguing discoveries that have brought people together in a quest for the truth,” Grieve says in a press release.
Sure, bigness is almost always a component of P.T. Barnum-esque hoaxes and attractions. But oxygen levels in the atmosphere were once much higher, so you never know.
Together with a team from the Rabbit Hole Research Institute, Grieve and his team have gone public with their conclusions, posting on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube and are eager to challenge any skeptics. Along with fellow artist Sam Roloff, who runs the real-life Rabbit Hole Art Studio and also has work in the de Young Open, they’ve even installed a mini museum around the discovery site.
While keeping mum about certain details, Roloff freely admitted to The Standard that he’s a bit of an instigator.
“I do painting and mixed media and I’m definitely provocative, in that I deal with current issues like the Yellow Vests in France,” he said.
Belief is something you can mess with, Roloff added, and conspiracy theorists have faith that there’s always someone out there crazier than them. The piece—er, exhibit—is about what assumptions people bring to stuff they find online.
But why a frog? Or, rather, how did they happen to discover a frog?
“I’m not sure what we’re saying, but it’s more about the absurdity of this frog living among us,” he said. “And if you don’t believe us, well, here’s all this proof.”
Easy to hear but hard to spot, frogs occupy a unique place in the cultural imagination. A plague of frogs features in the Book of Exodus (and the movie Magnolia). Kissing one won’t give you warts, although licking one might get you high. And the dino-mayhem in Jurassic Park occurred because scientists swapped in the DNA of frogs that can change their biological sex.
They’re mostly benign, though.
The top-hatted Michigan J. Frog became the Warner Bros. mascot on the strength of a single Looney Tunes appearance. In The Muppet Movie, Kermit the Frog evades Doc Hopper’s single-minded quest to enlist him as a spokes-amphibian for a nationwide chain of french-fried frog leg restaurants. Arnold Lobel’s low-key buddies Frog and Toad have taken on another life as memes, although none as potent as alt-right avatar Pepe the Frog became in 2016.
So the idea of a suppressed ancient frog cult makes sense. Megla Bufo has started to light up the internet, too. Replies on a Nextdoor post tried to debunk the find, sometimes in a hesitant way that made other commenters pounce.
Curious onlookers can decide for themselves at the Rabbit Hole in Sebastopol every day through Nov. 18, when there will be a farewell celebration for a creature that may join Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster and the chupacabra.
Unlike Mark Twain’s celebrated frog of Calaveras County, this one’s immobile and planted firmly in Sonoma.
Astrid Kane can be reached at email@example.com