Many of us wouldn’t be too surprised if we found a toad on our driveway—But a five-legged one? That’s something straight out of a Harry Potter novel.
And yet, that is exactly what Ronnie Martin saw as he stepped out onto his driveway in Texas County, Oklahoma.
“It was moving, he said it hopped off eventually and seemed to be getting around just fine,” Martin’s daughter, Marsha Carter, told Newsweek.
Having extra limbs like this is the result of a birth defect called polymelia, which can arise from several different sources. In many cases, it will be a genetic abnormality produced by unusual cell division and growth. In some cases, the extra limb may be the remains of a conjoined twin that was almost entirely absorbed by its sibling.
Polymelia can also result if a fetus is damaged in some way, either by physical impact or chemical exposure, which can disrupt the development of limbs.
Another cause may be infection. Bullfrogs in the western U.S. have been known to develop extra limbs due to flatworm larvae. They can burrow into tadpoles and form cysts around the animal’s developing limbs.
There are several different forms of polymelia, which depends on where the extra limb has grown: cephalomelia (from the head), pyromelia (from the pelvis), thoracomelia (from the thorac) and notomelia (from the backbone.)
The condition is still very rare. One study from the Universities of Bern and Zurich in Switzerland in 2002 estimated that only four out of every 100,000 cattle born worldwide have this condition.
But what about toads?
“I have seen toads with five legs before. It’s very rare,” Rick Shine, a toad researcher from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, told ABC News after a similar five-legged toad was spotted in Australia in February.
“In the course of research, we’ve handled many thousands of toads. I’ve probably seen it two or three times myself.”
While these extra limbs aren’t usually dangerous to the animal, they can hinder its mobility and make them more vulnerable to predators.
Carter shared photos of the unusual amphibian to the Facebook page Oklahoma Herpetological Society on August 20.
“We live in Texas County and prob one out of ten toads has some kind of deformity,” commented one user. “Usually it’s their feet. Stubs for toes, etc. They get around good though lol.”
“Hate to remove animals from the wild but that dude really outta be taken to a university or something,” said another.