The horned frogs and relatives

Horned frogs of Borneo

The horned frogs are weird creatures that display remarkable adaptations to live in very specific habitats. They also are remarkably varied, from massive forest heavyweights to tiny fingernail sized streambank dwellers. This is where we will start…

Miniature horned frogs – the dwarf litter frogs

The Kinabalu dwarf litter frog is found along mid altitude streams and is more often heard than seen

The lowland dwarf litter frog has a loud call that can hurt human ears at close range, though it is less than 2cm long!

These tiny forest dwellers (Leptobrachella spp) are so easy to overlook, in fact nearly impossible to find unless you are actually searching for them. The call is a rapid clicking or a buzz that is heard along almost every stream up to 1800m above sea level, so long as the stream is clean of course… Males call from leaves on the stream bank or among the debris. To find one is very hard, the call is difficult to pin point. Tadpoles live under the gravel in the stream and are almost never seen. Leptobrachella baluensis call

Slender litter frogs

The painted slender litter frog has no climbing adaptations yet manages to clamber about the trees and branches with ease

This species of slender litter frog is found in high altitude streams and has lovely apricot patches on its flanks

Larger in size but still pretty cool and still horned frogs are the slender litter frogs. They are quite common in the forests of Borneo, especially around clean streams. Their call is a cricket-like trill that goes for several minutes at a time. In fact you wouldn’t think the call is from a frog at all! They don’t have any pads on the fingers or toes yet are very often seen high in trees or climbing along twigs, their movements remind me of the local lemur- the slow loris! Leptolalax dringii call

Short litter frogs

Horned frogs

This looks to me like the mountain litter frog, but is a little low in altitude at 750m…

Getting even bigger are the Leptobrachium frogs. These are more like the larger horned frogs but lack the protrusions above the eyes. The call is usually a deep, explosive “Wahk” and when they notice they have been seen, they crouch down and are very hard to spot.

The smaller of the larger horned frogs

Found only in highland streams, this mystery horned frog (Xenophrys?) can be hard to find

This is getting more like it! This horned frog might belong to the genus Xenophrys and this species, like the other Xenophrys are high altitude specialists in Borneo, only found above 1300m. The one in the picture is a large female, and you can see the “horns” above the eyes they share with other horned frogs. They live along streams in the cloud forests.

At last- the giant horned frogs of Asia!

The montane horned frog is found only around highland streams

The common horned frog looks much like a dead leaf.

The biggest of the horned frogs of Asia belong to the Megophrys genus. They are monsters at times, with the female Megophrys nasuta being the size of an adult human’s hand. With a bear-trap like mouth that gobbles up almost anything that will fit in it they are opportunists of the finest kind. Scorpions, spiders, insects and small reptiles and frogs are all fair game. But they do have a fondness for snails of all things. The call is a loud honking and is one of the loudest frog calls of all, usually made at last light in the afternoon. They are forest and stream bank dwellers that live in small burrows that they use to ambush prey from. The most remarkable thing about these is the tadpoles. They are totally specialized unlike no other. With a funnel-like mouth they sift the surface for bacteria and pollen! They can only survive in the cleanest streams.

..And this is what it does. This tadpole feeds on pollen, bacteria and yeasts that float on the surface of the water, funneling them into the strange shaped mouth…

So there you have it… horned frogs!

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