From above, the oriental fire-bellied toad seems fairly nondescript—a green toad with black spots blending nicely with the verdant colors of its habitat. It’s not until it perceives a threat that this flashy amphibian reveals its true colors.
Oriental fire-bellied toads secrete toxins from their skin, and they want potential predators to know it. When threatened, they rise up on their front legs and arch their back, sometimes even flipping themselves over completely, to reveal the bright red-and-black coloration of their underside. This behavior, known as the unken reflex, warns predators, “Eat me, and you might croak.”
Range and Habitat
One of the most common amphibians in its primary range, oriental fire-bellied toads thrive in northeastern China, Korea, southern Japan, and southern parts of Russia. They are highly aquatic and usually found in slow-moving streams and ponds. When out of water, they stick to the region’s coniferous and broadleaved forests. They hibernate from late September to May, sheltering in rotting logs, leaf piles, and occasionally at the bottom of streams.
Oriental fire-bellied toads are medium-sized, growing to a length of about 2 inches. Their backs, covered in spiky-looking warts, can be bright green to brownish gray, and their bellies are smooth.
Tadpoles survive on algae, fungi, and plants, while the adults eat a variety of invertebrates, including worms, insects, and mollusks.
Oriental fire-bellies are popular in the pet trade, but they are common throughout their range and have no special conservation status.