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Thursday, March 13, 2003


Singing frog

* Japanese name: Kajika gaeru
* Scientific name: Buergeria buergeri
* Scientific name:
* Description: The Japanese singing frog, known for its "fififi" call, is brown or gray-black. Other frogs merely croak or call, but this frog sings. In Japan it was once common to keep the singing frog in a special box, the better to hear its beautiful song, which, it is said, has a cooling effect in the heat of summer. (Confinement is unlikely to have a cooling effect on the frog, however.) The singing frog has webbed hind- but not fore-feet; the tips of fingers and toes have truncated discs, the better for gripping wet stones. The skin on the back is grainy. Males are 3-4.5 cm long, females are bigger, at 4-8 cm.
* Where to find them: In mountain streams bordered by woodland, from Honshu to Kyushu, ideally streams with plenty of fist-size stones. Singing frogs breed from May to June. Eggs have more chance of hatching if they remain in large clusters, so the female lays between 250-800 of them in parts of the stream sheltered from the current.
* Food: Small invertebrates found in and by mountain streams, such as spiders, insects and insect larvae. Tadpoles eat algae and gradually transform into frogs by September.
* Special features: Males are strongly territorial. They will select a small stone in the river, sit on it and sing until they attract a mate. For many males, this will be a long wait, and for some no female will ever turn up. This produces a skewed mating success among males: A relatively small number of males will father huge numbers of tadpoles, and most males will not father any offspring. Females choose between males by the quality of their song, and males will fight to climb onto a female's back. Females spend a long time selecting a suitable place to spawn, moving downriver, while males ride around on their backs. Fertilization takes place outside the female's body -- by riding on her back, males can fertilize her eggs as she lays them. Before and after mating, singing frogs live alone. In the winter they hibernate.

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