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Horny ‘hipster’ toad brawls with his mustache

By David Ferguson
Saturday, July 6, 2013 12:07 EDT
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Emei mustache toad via Flickr
 
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A species of Chinese toad is unusual among amphibian species, not just because it is unusually aggressive to others of its kind, but because of its horny, barbed “mustache,” which is uses in fights for mating sites and dominance. According to New Scientist, the male Emei mustache toad (Vibrissaphora boringii) sprouts a row of sharp spines on its upper lip every mating season and uses them to fight other males.

“They are as sharp as a pencil lead,” said Cameron Hudson of Ontario Canada’s University of Guelph to New Scientist. The row of 10 to 16 spikes isn’t just for other frogs, he added, saying they “do try to stab you a bit when you pick them up.”

The toads are native to the Mount Emei region of Sichuan China and differ from other amphibian species in key ways. The males are bigger than the females and demonstrate unusual aggression toward other males. In most amphibians, combat is mainly posturing and wrestling, but mustache toads inflict vicious puncture wounds on each other with the row of barbs on their lips.

The toads spend most of their time living in the forest, but in February and March, they migrate to rivers. The males arrive first and stake out rocks, which they then swim around underwater, grunting to attract females.

The males fight each other underwater, butting each other in the belly. Hudson said he’s never seen them kill each other, but the wounds are deep and many choice rocks change owners over the course of the mating and combat season.

The females only visit, laying eggs for the males to fertilize on the underwater surfaces of the rocks. The males then wait for the offspring to hatch, often letting the fertilized offspring of other males hatch alongside their own.

‘Hipster’ mustached toads are good fathers, said Cameron. Once the females leave the mating sites in early March, the males lose their spikes and stay behind, caring for the hatchlings until they become tadpoles, at which point the male toads return to the woods.

Watch video about this story, embedded below via New Scientist:

[image of Emei mustache toad via Imgur, Creative Commons licensed]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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