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Fire-Bellied Toads and Barbourulas: Bombinatoridae - Oriental Fire-bellied Toad (bombina Orientalis): Species Accounts

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansFire-Bellied Toads and Barbourulas: Bombinatoridae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Fire-bellied Toads, Barbourulas, And People - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT


Physical characteristics: Also known as an Oriental bell toad, the Oriental fire-bellied toad has a bright red to orange underside that is marked with large, dark blotches. Its back is brownish to greenish gray or bright green, usually has black and shiny spots, and is covered with pointy warts. Each of the two large eyes on its head, which is colored like the back, has a triangular pupil. Some people think the pupil looks more like a heart than a triangle. The front and back toes look as if their tips were dipped in bright orange or yellow paint. The front toes have no webbing between them, but the back toes are webbed.

Oriental fire-bellied toads usually grow to about 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 centimeters) long from the tip of their snout to the end of the rump. Males and females look alike, except that males have slightly thicker forelegs. In addition, during breeding season, the males develop black pads on their front legs and toes. The male uses these pads, which are called nuptial (NUHP-shul) pads, to grip onto the female during mating.

This Oriental fire-bellied toad adopts a defensive display, showing the warning colors on its belly. (Photograph by M.P.L. Fogden. Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: The Oriental fire-bellied toad lives in Korea, on two Japanese islands called Tsushima and Kyushu, in northeastern China, and in parts of nearby Russia.

Habitat: Oriental fire-bellied toads usually are found in or near ponds, lakes, swamps, and slow-moving streams. They may also be found in ditches and other temporary ponds, which typically dry up during the summer. These water bodies may be in forests or meadows.

Diet: Young tadpoles are vegetarians but begin to eat insects as they grow larger. Once they become toadlets, they switch to a diet of small invertebrates. The adults eat beetles, ants, flies, and other insects that they find on land or in the water. They also eat worms and snails.

Behavior and reproduction: Like many other members of this family, Oriental fire-bellied toads display their brightly colored underside as a way to scare off predators. Often, this toad will remain on its belly, lift its legs, and stretch its forelegs over its head to provide a good look at its throat and belly colors. Sometimes, it will flip over onto its back while holding out its forelegs, a display that shows off its underside even more. It also releases a bad-tasting poison from its warts. The combination of poison and the display helps the toad avoid becoming a predator's next meal.

These toads are more active when temperatures are higher and the weather is not too dry. On these warm days, they will hop about in search of food. During especially dry spells in the summer, they sometimes take shelter under rocks or logs until a rain wets the land again. When the weather cools, usually in October, they find shelter either on the bottom of a stream or on land and hibernate for as long as seven or eight months. When they take their winter's sleep on land, they usually find a hiding spot under a pile of leaves or stones or inside a dead and rotting log or tree stump. Sometimes, up to six of these toads will spend the winter huddled together.

When the toads come out of hibernation in the spring, the males float on the surface of the water and start making their mating call. Depending on how close a person is to the calling toads, the mating call may sound like a duck quacking or more like a small bell. Males and females continue to mate throughout the summer. The female lays up to 250 large eggs a year, but only about six to 30 at a time, and places them beneath underwater rocks. Within one to two weeks, sometimes longer, the eggs hatch into tadpoles. The tadpoles change into toadlets in about two months and before hibernation. Overall, the Oriental fire-bellied toads can grow to a ripe old age. In the wild, they may live for as long as 20 years.

Oriental fire-bellied toads and people: Many people keep this toad as a pet.

Conservation status: This species is not considered to be at risk. ∎

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