Males reach a snout-vent length of up to 28 mm. The largest female found was 34 mm. The fingers have expanded and truncated tips (Channing and Howell 2006), which might be an adaptation to climbing on plants. Coloration is sexually dimorphic and is also highly variable between individuals (Channing and Howell 2006). The upper body surface in males is brown to red and can be patterned; a faint lighter stripe can extend from the orbit along the parotid glands (Channing and Howell 2006) but is not always consistently present (Starnberger, pers. comm.). In contrast, the color of the upper surface in females is a rusty red with the center of the back being yellowish; females may also have a single black bar on each tibia and another black bar on each foot (Channing and Howell 2006). Barbour and Loveridge (1928) also reported a clear sexual dimorphism in ventral patterning, stating that the sides and ventral surface of the male are uniformly white or grey, whereas the female’s underside is translucent. In males, the underside of the body appears brighter than the dorsal skin (Starnberger et al. 2011).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Tanzania, United Republic of
Endemic to Tanzania. This species is known from the Mahenge, Nguru, Udzungwa, Ukaguru, Uluguru, and Usambara Mountains, as well as Mount Rungwe, but may occur throughout the Eastern Arc chain in eastern and southern Tanzania (Loader et al. 2004). It has been found at elevations ranging from 300 m asl (in the Kimboza Forest, Uluguru foothills) to 1,800 m asl, in lowland and montane forest (Loader et al. 2004) as well as in agricultural land (e.g., oil palm plantations) adjacent to forest. Individuals can be found on low parts of forest-floor vegetation, as well as in stalks of bamboo and under leaf litter (Loader et al. 2004; Channing and Howell 2006).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Calls: Males call in spring, at the start of the rainy season, and the call can be described as a “pink-pink” (Channing and Howell 2006) consisting of 1-4 notes. The males observed by Starnberger et al. (2011) were calling in July and August and produced a single-note call progressing to a rapid, repetitive double note (mean note duration 0.04 - 0.01 s) separated by inter-note intervals (mean duration 0.31 - 0.5 s). In rare cases, males emitted triple or even quadruple-note calls. The peak energy of the notes was between 3033.5 to 3205.8 Hz, +/- 22.2 Hz, with additional harmonic frequency bands at approximately 6100, 9400 and 12400 Hz (Starnberger et al. 2011).
Males were found calling at night sitting elevated on vegetation (Clidemia hirta and Marattia fraxinea) along earthen trailside banks, at a mean height of 79 cm (range 40-170 cm) from the ground and never closer than 0.5 m to another male. While calling, males adopt a peculiar posture lifting themselves off the substrate by stretching their fore- and hindlegs. This posture was described as the “push-up” and might serve a visual display to deter other males, to enhance sound transmission or to improve the caller’s detectability. When disturbed, males cease calling and flatten themselves against the plant surface (Starnberger et al. 2011).
Reproductive behavior: Nectophrynoides tornieri has internal fertilization; it is viviparous with direct development. Females have been found carrying up to 35 young in the oviduct (Channing and Howell 2006).
Defensive behavior: In addition to flattening against the vegetation when disturbed, N. tornieri may play dead, remaining on its back with the limbs retracted for a minute or so (Channing and Howell 2006).
This species consumes ants (Channing and Howell 2006).
Trends and Threats
This species is protected under CITES Appendix I. It is adaptable and can tolerate some habitat disturbance. It is of the most abundant amphibians in the Eastern Arcs. However, lower elevation habitat in particular is likely being lost to expanding agriculture, logging, and increasing human settlement. In the Eastern Usambaras, illegal gold mining presents a serious threat. It is known to occur in two protected areas: the Udzungwa National Park and the Amani Nature Reserve (Loader et al. 2004).
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
N. tornieri was described by Roux (1906). The specific epithet honors the German herpetologist Gustav Tornier.
Some records from the Uluguru Mountains that are currently referred to N. tornieri may actually represent an undescribed species. In addition, some records from the West Usambara Mountains are thought to represent a second undescribed species (Loader et al. 2004).
Barbour, T. and Loveridge, A. (1928). ''A comparative study of the herpetological faunae of the Uluguru and Usambara Mountains, Tanganyika Territory with descriptions of new species.'' Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, L(2), 85-265.
Channing, A., and Howell, K. M. (2006). Amphibians of East Africa. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
Loader, S., Poynton, J., and Howell, K. 2004. Nectophrynoides tornieri. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 06 March 2011.
Roux, J. (1906). ''Synopsis of the toads of the genus Nectophryne B. & P., with special remarks on some known species and descriptions of a new species from German East Africa.'' Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1906, 58-65.
Starnberger, I., Kamminga, P., Fosah, V. C., and Nuttman, C. (2011). ''The “push-up” as a calling posture in Nectophrynoides tornieri (Anura: Bufonidae) in the Amani Nature Reserve, Tanzania.'' Herpetologica (in press)
Written by Iris Starnberger (iris.starnberger AT univie.ac.at), Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Vienna, Austria
First submitted 2010-10-14
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2011-03-08)
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