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Friday, Aug. 3, 2001
By ROWAN HOOPER
* Japanese name: Nihon hikigaeru * Scientific name: Bufo japonicus * Description: This is one of the biggest amphibians in Japan. Adults are between 8-18 cm long; tadpoles are 3.5-4 cm long. They have the classic toad traits of poisonous, warty skin and yellow, bulging eyes. Male toads are yellowish-brown and females are darker. Some have red splotches, and there are black markings on the belly. There is a black belt along the flanks of the body, bordered with white stripes. They are terrestrial and have dry skin. * Where to find them: Grasslands and woodlands. They can be found in large parks in cities, but are now rare in gardens. You are most likely to see them on the road after it's been raining. They breed from April tp May, each female laying between 6,000 to 15,000 eggs in shallow water in ponds, ditches and swamps. Tadpoles become toadlets by early June. * Food: Insects, worms and river crabs. * Special features: Toads have a highly developed sense of smell, which helps them find their way back to the breeding pond they lived in as a toadlet, two-three years before. Once there, males will clasp anything that is about the same size as a female toad. If this happens to be a male toad, the clasped male will make a release call, and the errant male will move on. If he clasps a female after she has laid her eggs, she vibrates her body, and again he will release her. When he finds a female before she has laid her eggs, he clasps her in a state known as amplexus (as in the photo). This can last up to 12 hours. After she lays her eggs, he releases his sperm. Males fight strongly to achieve amplexus with a female. Sometimes females are even killed by the pressure exerted by masses of sexually excited males.