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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007


Miyako toad

* Japanese name: Miyako-hikigaeru
* Scientific name: Bufo gargarizans miyakonis
* Description: A medium-size toad, males grow up to 113-mm long, females up to 120 mm. It is a beige color and has black eyes. The belly is off-white. The skin, like many toads, is lumpy and warty. Its warts are formed by the paratoid glands under the skin, which incidentally are the most important difference that distinguishes toads from frogs. Also in common with many toads, it is a stocky animal, with short legs, which makes it poor at jumping.
* Where to find them: You are not going to find this toad unless you happen to live on Miyako Island, Okinawa Prefecture. However, a similar toad lives in Honshu and Kyushu in woodlands and up to 800-meters high on mountainsides. The Miyako toad is a subspecies and is listed as endangered.
* Food: Insects mainly, with crickets and grasshoppers preferred, but tree frogs will also take flies and moths, and are partial to earthworms. The frogs are only small, but they are agile and sure-footed, and can swiftly pursue and capture an insect that has landed in a tree.
* Special features: According to folklore, it was thought that handling a toad would give you warts. That's not true, but there is a glimmer of truth to the myth: The skin of toads contains toxins that deter predators that might be tempted to eat the amphibian. That the toad is the subject of a myth that the skin causes warts has the same useful effect of discouraging humans to interfere with the animal. But it is not entirely successful. It has recently been discovered that one of the compounds in this toad's skin is the same as one of the ingredients in the traditional Chinese medicine Ch'an Su. So, in China, at least, humans do catch this toad. Other researchers have found that the stomach contains a potent antimicrobial protein. It probably wouldn't deter someone who wanted to make drugs from the toad, but the animal can inflate its body when threatened. Interestingly, males have a redundant structure called the organ of Bidder -- a non-functional ovary.


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