Dancing Frog

Dancing Frogs

The Western Ghats is an ancient mountain range that runs along the west coast of India from Kerala till the Gujarat-Maharashtra border. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a biodiversity hotspot, having some of the rarest species found on this planet. It is estimated to have about twenty five percent of India’s biodiversity and new species are being discovered every year. With an average elevation of about 1200 meters above sea level, these mountains intercept the westerly monsoon winds; resulting in the most important southwest monsoon that is a lifeline to this region. Covering an area of 1,60,000 sq. km., most part of these ghats are evergreen.

The ghats are home to various interesting inhabitants, one of them being the dancing frogs of the family Micrixalidae. The males of these species have adapted over millions of years to use visual displays along with vocal calls to attract their females and also to defend their territory. Such displays are needed as they are present around monsoon streams where their calls are barely audible. The male sits on a small rock in the stream and announces his presence with vocal calls. This is done to claim the territory of the rock and defend it from competing males. He stretches one of the hind limbs away and posterior to the body, waving his webbed feet before folding it back. This could last between 2 to 4 seconds. It has been observed that the male to female ratio is about 9:1, increasing the competition among the males. Nearby males come close to each other to settle disputes. Males within such close proximities are known to perform foot flagging and kicking. Prior to this, foot tapping and thigh tapping have also been observed. The male usually turns his back to the other male to advertise his antics. Sometimes the winner is decided without an actual kick. When combating males come in very close proximity to each other, kicking has been observed. The
kicking male re-orients itself to kick back again and the receiver either jumps to another rock or retaliates by kicking.

The female chooses the male and allows him to mount on her back to trigger amplexus. The male is smaller than the female. He grasps her by the arm and sits on the dorsum. The male does not advertise while in amplexus. The female carries the male in the amplected position to multiple places while looking for a suitable spot to lay the eggs. She prefers shallow places under the stream and digs the sand, gravel and pebbles with her hind legs. When the digging is complete, the pair submerges in water to lay the eggs.

After the egg laying is complete, the male separates and surfaces. The female leaves after covering the eggs with pebbles and gravel. No parental care has been observed. Males are known to start calling within a few minutes!

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