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Asian Treefrogs: Rhacophoridae - Free Madagascar Frog (mantidactylus Liber): Species Accounts

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Physical characteristics: This is a slim frog with slender front and rear legs and extremely thin toes. Its front legs, including the long toes, would be about as long as the frog's body if they were stretched out. The toes on all four feet end in large pads. The front toes have no webbing between them; the back toes are slightly webbed. The frog's back, head, and legs are red, gray, or green, often smeared with patches of a slightly different second color. For example, a frog may have a pinkish brown back colored with light brown or greenish brown patches. A faint light line runs from the snout over the head and down the back. Some white or yellow spots may be noticeable low on the sides, especially toward the rump, and a few white speckles may show on the sides of the head and neck. The underside of the frog may be black. Its head has a rather long snout that narrows This little known genus from Madagascar has many color variations of color, even within the same species. (Photograph by Harald Schüetz. Reproduced by permission.) toward the front, and one eye of the large, gold to copper-colored pair of eyes on either side. A dark bar may show between the eyes. A narrow ridge runs from the back of the head to the shoulder.

Males have a flat structure, called a gland, under the skin on the upper rear leg, and a large, white vocal sac in the throat region. The vocal sac, which is also seen in other species of Asian treefrogs and many other types of frogs, blows up like a balloon when the male makes his call. Males are often a bit smaller than females, but both can grow to the same size. Males reach 0.8 to 1.1 inches (2.1 to 2.9 centimeters) from the tip of the snout to the end of the rump, while females grow to 1.06 to 1.1 inches (2.7 to 2.8 centimeters) long.

Geographic range: They live on the eastern side of Madagascar, as well as in the central region of the country.

Habitat: They live in moist rainforests from lowland areas at sea level to mountain locations up to 3,900 feet (1,200 meters) above sea level. Tadpoles develop in shallow water of swamps and other wetlands.

Diet: The diet is probably like that of many other treefrogs: small arthropods, including insects and spiders.

Behavior and reproduction: Most of the time, this frog sits in or near plants with cup- or tube-shaped parts that fill with water. The rainiest time of year is the mating season for the free Madagascar frog, and males begin calling from plants around the still or slow-moving water of small pools and swamps. The male's call is a ticking sound. When a female answers his call, she approaches him and may even give him a little push from behind. He then climbs onto her back and begins to wiggle. As he does, she lays her eggs onto the leaves. Each female may lay thirty to ninety eggs. When the eggs hatch into tadpoles, the tadpoles drop off the leaves and plop into the water below. They stay in the water until they develop into froglets.

Free Madagascar frogs and people: This frog survives quite well in rainforests that humans have not disturbed and in rainforests that have seen a good deal of human activity, such as the cutting of some trees for farming or other purposes.

Conservation status: This frog is quite common, and the IUCN lists it as being of Least Concern, which means it has no known threat of extinction and does not qualify for any of the "threatened" categories. Scientists are, however, watching this and other frog species as the rainforest disappears. Fortunately, the free Madagascar frog lives in many places that are protected from habitat destruction. ∎



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