Asian Toadfrogs: Megophryidae
Ailao Moustache Toad (vibrissaphora Ailaonica): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: The small spines that stick straight out of the male's upper lip give the Ailao moustache toad, also known as a Yunnan moustache toad, its common name. Its other common name, the Ailao spiny toad, also refers to its prickly lip. The females do not have spines and instead have tiny white spots on the upper lip. They have large eyes that are black on the bottom and bright green on the top and have vertical, cat-like pupils. Their bodies are reddish brown with faint, darker brown spots on the back and pale, dark brown bands on their front legs, unwebbed front toes, back legs, and webbed back toes. Their skin may be very rough and make them look as if they had been dipped in sand. Young frogs are tan instead of reddish brown and have more noticeable spots and bands on their bodies. Unlike many other species in this family, the males are a bit larger than the females. Males typically reach 3.2 inches (8.2 centimeters) long from snout to rump, while females usually grow to 3.1 inches (7.8 centimeters) in length.
Geographic range: The moustache toad lives in the Ailao Shan and Wuliang Shan mountain ranges in central Yunnan, China, and possibly in northern Vietnam.
Habitat: The moustache toad spends most of the year on land in thick, shady forests high in the mountains, usually between 7,220 to 8,200 feet (2,200 to 2,500 meters) above sea level. During the mating season, it moves into slow-moving, clear streams.
Diet: It appears to eat various invertebrates, such as worms and snails, that it catches on the forest floor.
Behavior and reproduction: The Ailao moustache toad stays on land most of the year, but moves into a stream during the two- to six-week-long mating season in late winter. Several males share a nesting site under a large rock, and each male begins to sprout the 10 to 16 spines in his "moustache." At the same time, the male's front legs become thicker, and the skin on his back and sides starts to droop and become baggy. Females come to the nest, mate with the males, and lay their eggs in the nest. In most other species of frogs, both the male and female leave after the female lays her eggs, and the eggs hatch and develop on their own. In the Ailao moustache toad, however, the females leave, but the males stay with the eggs. The males may continue to mate with other females, who also lay their eggs in the same nest. In about 40 days, the eggs hatch into tadpoles. The brown-colored tadpoles change into froglets in their second year.
Ailao moustache toads and people: Few people have ever seen this frog.
Conservation status: The World Conservation Union (IUCN) considers this species to be Near Threatened, which means that it is at risk of becoming threatened with extinction in the future. The Ailao moustache toad seems to be quite rare. However, most if not all of its habitat is inside nature reserves, where it is protected. ∎
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