Fire belly toads (Bombina orientalis), also called fire-bellied toads, are amphibians that spend their lives near water. They do make considerable noise, and their sounds range in duration and meaning, being used both for mating and for warning. Many fire belly toad owners find these sounds pleasant, and do not mind them.
Fire Belly Toad Identification
Covered with warts on the top of their head and all down their back and the outsides of their limbs, fire belly toads get their name from their bright, speckled stomach. This is a mottled combination of red and black. The toad uses these bright colors to warn other animals not to eat him, since flashy coloration is so often associated with toxicity in reptiles and amphibians. It is largely a bluff, however, as fire belly toads are not that toxic as amphibians go (though you should still wash your hands after handling, as their toxins can be irritating). They are quite small, only 2 to 3 inches across.
Barks and Croaks
The fire-bellied toad makes a range of noises, though most are in a high register that some people compare to the sound of a bell. Unlike many other animals, who vocalize on an exhale, they create sound by inhaling. Although males and females look very similar, one surefire way to tell the difference between them is by sound: females do not make noise at all. The male's mating call sounds like a long bark, often lasting 12 seconds. Males also croak when, during mating season, a male mistakenly jumps on their back instead of onto a female.
During mating season, males begin to emit mating calls at regular intervals in hopes of attracting females. When a female approaches, he jumps onto her back and begins to copulate. They then swim around together, the female laying the eggs while the male fertilizes them. Oftentimes breeding sites will contain significantly more males than females -- sometimes as high as a 10 to 1 ratio -- which can cause problems when males mistakenly jump on males.
Male and female fire belly toads are quite difficult to tell apart. Much of the time, in fact, it is nearly impossible, especially if males are silent. During mating season, however, males develop rough, bumpy or horny pads on their fingers and forearms. Hormones trigger the development of these “nuptial pads,” which are only present during mating season, and are meant to help them to hold on to females in their slippery aquatic environment.
- Pet Supplies Plus: Fire Bellied Toad
- McDaniel College: Oriental Firebellied Toad
- Animal Diversity Web: Bombina Orientalis
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Oriental Fire-bellied Toad
- Trinity College: Histology and Histrochemistry Of Androgen-Stimulated Nuptial Pads In The Leopard Frog, Rana Pipiens, With Notes On Nuptial Gland Evolution
Sarah Moore has been a writer, editor and blogger since 2006. She holds a master's degree in journalism.