Tomato Frog

Tomato Frog

Range:

Northeastern coast of Madagascar, from Antongil Bay south to Andevoranto

Habitat:

Coastal forest and lowlands, at elevations from sea level to 2,950 feet.

Characteristics:

Tomato frogs are a vibrant, orange-red color. Females are much larger than males and have brighter tones of red or orange on their back, with a pale undersurface. Some individuals also have black spots on their throat. The much smaller adult male tomato frogs are most commonly orange or brown-orange in color. Juveniles are dull brown in color.

The tomato frog belongs to the family Microhylidae, the "narrow-mouthed frogs". There are about 270 species of microhylid frogs, most of them living in tropical habitats around the world. Most have no teeth, but instead have ridges of folds on the roofs of their mouths to help them hold onto and swallow prey.

Behavior:

This nocturnal frog prefers areas in which the temperature is warm throughout the year, with temperatures between 77-86° Fahrenheit, and very humid. Tomato frogs are most commonly found burrowing into the moist leaf litter, where they find termites and worms to eat.

They are also ambush predators, capable of sitting for hours in a shallow pool of water or hidden under leaves, completely still, rarely blinking waiting for an unsuspecting insect to come by. When it is close enough, the tomato frog reacts quickly, seizing its prey with a flick of its sticky tongue. To swallow its meal, the frog must shut its eyes, pushing its eyeballs down in their sockets. This increases the swallowing pressure in its mouth and makes it easier to swallow dinner.

Tomato frogs red color is known as aposematic coloration – a type of warning coloration. It lets predators know that they are not good to eat. When attacked, a tomato frog inflates itself with air and the skin secretes glue-like mucus – quickly encouraging their release. The secretion causes irritation to the mucous membranes of the potential predator. Humans that have eaten tomato frogs often suffer an acute allergic reaction.

Reproduction:

When the rainy season begins (October-January), the males can be heard calling to females. The typical calls emitted by the males, sounds like “saogongogno.” Once the females appear on the scene, they pair up. Each male clings tightly to the female’s back, in a behavior known as amplexus, for several hours.

The frogs most often breed in shallow pools, swamps, and slow-moving bodies of water. The female finds a suitable place to lay her 1,000 to 1,500 eggs. The male fertilizes the eggs and the couple disbands. The eggs float on the surface of the water and begin to hatch within 36 hours.

The tadpoles are "filter-feeders", straining tiny bits of nutrients from the water. In human care, they metamorphose into tiny froglets about 45-days after hatching. It takes several months for the primarily black froglets to acquire the reddish coloring of maturity. They reach adult size and are sexually mature in less than a year.

Interesting Facts:
  • The Malagasy call the tomato frog “Sangongon,” a name that mimics the low-pitched notes of its call.
  • These frogs are more adaptable than many species to disturbed habitat in Madagascar. They are often found in gardens and on eucalyptus plantations. They have also been seen breeding in drainage ditches.
Conservation:

These frogs are listed as near threatened. This is mainly due to deforestation and habitat loss, caused by unsustainable subsistence farming, charcoal and timber production, and illegal logging and exportation. Like all amphibians, they have permeable skin and are susceptible to pollutants in the water.

They are also being impacted by the pet trade because of their beautiful coloration. However, due to successful breeding in in captive populations this threat is lessoning.

Tomato frogs are now part of a captive breeding program involving many AZA accredited Zoos. Research into captive breeding techniques for the tomato frog was initially begun by the Baltimore Zoo in an effort to boost the currently small captive population that exists in the United States. A consortium of U.S. zoos that form the Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG) have established an exhibit at the Parc Zoologique Ivoloina, Madagascar in an attempt to help educate local people about this important species that is part of their natural heritage.

Did YOU Know?    
Although associated with water, tomato frogs are poor swimmers. In zoos and aquariums, special precautions are taken to keep the froglets from drowning as they develop from the tadpole stage.
Tomato Frog
Range
Class: amphibians
Order: Microhylidae
Family: Dyscophus
Genus: Dyscophus
Species: antongilii
Length: Females average 3.5 to 4 inches in body length. Males average 2 to 2.5 inches.
Weight: Females weigh about 8 ounces; males weigh about 1.5 ounces
Average Lifespan: Over seven years
Wild Diet: Feed on insects, worms, spiders and even small vertebrates – including their own offspring.
Zoo Diet: Crickets, mealworms, and pinky mice
Predators: Snakes
USFWS Status: Not listed
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building


Learn more about amphibians or animals from Africa!
Or, cross-reference the two!

    • MEET OUR ANIMALS

    • ZOO MEMBERSHIPS

    • GROUP PARTIES

    • EDUCATION