August 31, 2017
- as seen by -Avishai Shuter
It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s a… Kihansi spray toad?
Imagine you’re a small toad signaling to other small toads that you’ve staked out your territory, and you’re prepared to defend it. In this territory, you can catch all the food you want and attract mates. You could try to call to other toads, and you do, but since you live at the base of a giant, noisy waterfall, only those toads right next to you can hear your calls. So how can you communicate to those toads that can’t hear you? This is the conundrum of the Kihansi spray toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis).
Like many species of frogs and toads that live in noisy environments, Kihansi spray toads have adopted a communication strategy that involves visual signals in addition to acoustic ones. Male Kihansi spray toads will take a “Superman” or “pushup” pose in order to attract mates and deter competitors. By outstretching their back legs, they can expose dark spots, called “inguinal patches,” on their sides. The size of these patches may communicate fitness to potential mates or competitors. So next time you see a spray toad look like he might start doing pushups, you’ll know he’s not just trying to get into shape for the summer time.