Oriental fire-bellied toad

Bombina_orientalis_Genève_24102014

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The Oriental fire-bellied toad is a small amphibian living in Eastern Asia. Although their name says they are toads, these animals are not part of the true toad family, and are therefore sometimes called frogs. The true identity of these amphibians is a controversial subject. Part of the reason their true identity is unknown is that they have moist skin and live in/near the water like frogs, but they have bumpy skin like toads. There are other species of fire-bellied toads living in other parts of Europe and Asia, but these only live in Japan, China, Korea, and Russia and only near the coasts right next to Japan. This specific species is green with black spots on the top and orange and black on its underside. You can see the frogs underside better in the picture below. This pattern gives the animals the “fire-bellied” part of its name while the word Oriental comes from the fact that it lives in eastern Asia, commonly known as the Orient. From late September through May, these animals hibernate in rotting logs, leaf piles, or on the bottom of streams.800px-Bombina_orientalis_y.h

Habitat

These amphibians live in a variety of habitats including forests, meadows, swamps, and river valleys. During the spring and early summer, they live near bodies of water. This water can be anywhere from puddles and ditches to lakes and ponds to streams and rivers. Towards the end of summer, Oriental fire-bellied toads can be found up to 1,000 feet (300 m) away from water. Their altitude ranges from 5,300 to 10,000 feet (1,700-3,000 m) above sea level.

Size

Although both males and females are about the same size, females are sometimes ever so slightly larger. The adults range in size from one and a half to two and a half inches (3.8-6.3 cm) in length. They weigh from one to two ounces (28-56 g).

Diet

Oriental fire-bellied toad tadpoles eat algae, fungi, plants, and microscopic organisms. As they get older, their diet broadens as they are able to tackle larger food. Even before metamorphosis is complete, they eat terrestrial invertebrates. Adults eat worms, snails, and insects. Unlike other frogs and toads, they cannot extend their tongues, and they must catch their prey by leaping forward and grabbing onto the food in their mouths. In the National Zoo, these animals are fed small crickets three times a week. Oriental fire-bellied toads, along with most other amphibian species, will not eat something that is not moving. They have even been known to release prey that does not put up a fight.

Status and threats

The IUCN Red List ranks this species as “Least Concern.” Although it is considered common in both China and Russia, the population of this animal in the wild is decreasing. Oriental fire-bellied toads are so common, in fact, that they make up about thirty percent of the total number of amphibians throughout their range! At breeding habitats, one can find up to eight individuals per square yard (.8 sq. m.)! Towards the northern part of their range this species of fire-bellied toads gets rarer, and at the northernmost part, only a few people know about this toad.

The main threats to these animals are habitat loss and habitat degradation. They are also sometimes collected for use in traditional Chinese medicine, and this also poses a threat to them. A moderate amount of Oriental fire-bellied toads are exported for use in the international pet trade especially in Europe and North America.

Predators and protection

One of the main predators of these frogs is fish, as both animals live in or near the water. Birds also sometimes eat them. If any species of fire-bellied toad feels threatened, it will display its bright underside. This technique in any animal is called the unken reflex. The reason the unken reflex works is that in the animal kingdom, bright colors mean poison. Fire-bellied toads do secrete a special toxin from their skin, and this can be harmful to predators. They would rather the potential predator find this out before eating the toad than afterwards when it is too late for both of them. This toxin also makes the frog dangerous for humans to handle. Although it is not deadly, the poison can irritate skin and eyes.

Mating and eggs

When the weather starts warming up and starts getting rainier, breeding season has begun for the Oriental fire-bellied toad. Males use a barking sound to attract females. They will then try to mate with any frog that passes by, even if it is a male. After mating, the females lay from 40 to 250 eggs in a large cluster usually around aquatic plants near the edge of the water. Depending on the temperature of the water, the tadpoles take from three to ten days to hatch from their eggs.

Young

Within six to eight weeks after hatching, the young start to grow legs. After a total of twelve to fourteen weeks, they are fully metamorphosed and start living on land. In the wild these animals can live up to twenty years with reports of up to thirty years of age in captivity.

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Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Oriental fire-bellied toad – Vassil
  • Oriental fire-bellied toad underside – Public domain
  • Mystery animal – Josh Olander
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