frog comes from the huge island of Madagascar, off the east coast of
Africa, where during more than 40 million years of isolation many species
have evolved which occur nowhere else. Tomato frogs are found on the
northeast coast of Madagascar, mainly around Antongill Bay, from which
the frogs take their scientific name.
in which tomato frogs occur are almost uniformly warm throughout
the year, with temperatures between 76°and 90° F (25°-30° C).
It rains frequently as well, and there is really no dry season to
speak of. The forest in this part of Madagascar is made up mainly
of Pandanus palms, but tomato frogs do not live in primary
forest, and are often found in ditches and ponds near farms and towns.
Adult male tomato frogs are about 2.5 inches (65 mm), weigh around 1.5 ounces
(40 gr) and are orange or brown-orange in color. A female tomato frog is bright
red, measures more than 4 inches (10.1 cm) in length, (nearly twice the length
of a typical male) and weighs about 8 ounces (227 gr). Female tomato frogs really
do resemble ripe tomatoes.
10 years (estimate)
in the wild. Many frogs can live for more than 10 years, and it is probable
that some tomato frogs live into their teens.
In the wild: Arthropods and other animals which
catch their attention, are small enough to eat and unwary enough
to come near these ambush-feeding frogs.
At the zoo: Vitamin-dusted
crickets and mealworms.
In areas where they occur, male tomato frogs are often heard calling
from ditches, marshes and shallow pools after rains, summoning
females to breed. In captivity, tomato frogs breed when they are
subjected to an artificial “rain” following a dry period.
Each female lays 1000-1500 eggs, which float on the surface of
Quarter-inch-long (6 mm) tadpoles hatch 36 hours after the
eggs are laid, and are “filter-feeders,” straining tiny
bits of nutrients from the water in order to get everything they need
to grow and develop. In captivity they metamorphose into tiny froglets
about 45 days after hatching. They reach adult size and are probably
sexually mature in less than a year.
They Look Delicious,
But Don't Eat 'em
Why are tomato frogs so brightly colored? They secrete a toxin
from their skin as a form of defense, and humans who have eaten
tomato frogs have suffered severe allergy-like symptoms. Other
frogs, like poison dart frogs, are brightly colored to warn predators
that they are not good to eat. These warnings are called “flash” colors
or aposematic coloration, and it may be that the tomato frogs are
advertising their toxicity.
- When a frog closes
its eyes, it is the eyes that move; they are pulled down
into the head by the action of muscles in the skull!
- Very few frogs
are salt water tolerant; a few can live in brackish water.
This is an indication that while life may have come from
the sea, land-dwelling vertebrates, which are descendants
of ancient amphibians, arrived there by way of fresh water!
frogs are on exhibit in the Day Exhibit. They share their home with
a captive-bred example of a rare species of lizard—Standing’s day gecko,
which is also found on Madagascar. Standing’s day geckos are
disappearing because of the pet trade and because the dry thorn forests
of southwestern Madagascar are being cut down for charcoal.
Other species of frogs which can be seen in the Day Exhibit are: waxy treefrogs,
Solomon Islands leaf frogs, ornate horned frogs and blue and yellow poison dart
The tomato frog is an endangered
species.* Tomato frogs are fortunate in that they do not depend on
primary forest, little of which remains in Madagascar is disappearing
fast. Sometimes breeding in areas of human disturbance and activity,
they are vulnerable to collection for the illegal animal trade and
from the increasing runoff of pesticides, herbicides and detergents
into the ponds and ditches where they often breed. Their distinctive
call also makes them identifiable even in the darkness of the Malagasy
night, so that poachers may pick them like (yes, indeed) so many
How You Can Help!
The effort to save endangered species like the tomato frog requires cooperation
and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels.
You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo
and other conservation organizations of your choice. Don't buy products
made from wild animal parts. Contact your elected representatives and express
your views about conservation of endangered species and wild habitats.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out
other ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Discover more
about frogs by contacting the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
at 303 W. 39th St., PO Box 626, Hays, KS 67601. Learn other ways you can
help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Reptiles as Pets
We do not recommend reptiles as pets for most people as they require very specialized diets and environments. We also receive hundreds of requests each year to take former pet iguanas, boas and other reptiles but we cannot accept these due to space, health and unknown backgrounds. If you need to find a reptile or amphibian a new home, we suggest you contact a local herpetological group in your area. In the Puget Sound region, contact the Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society as a resource. If you do choose to get a reptile as a pet, please learn as much as possible about their care and the best species before making your decision and never accept wild-caught animals as pets or release non-native reptiles or amphibians into the wild.
Sources and Suggested
Glaw & Vences. 1992. Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar.
Published by the authors, Cologne, Germany. 331 p.
Preston, Mafbam. 1991. Madagascar, a Natural History. Facts on File, New York,
NY. 224 p.
Fichter, George S. 1993. Turtles, Toads and Frogs. A Golden
Book, New York, NY. 36 p.
Pallotta, Jerry. 1990. The Frog Alphabet Book. Charlesbridge Publishing, Watertown,
MA. 30 p.
* Woodland Park Zoo identifies an animal
or plant endangered if it is listed as endangered (in any part
of its range) on the federal list of Endangered and Threatened
Wildlife and Plants, or if it is listed on Appendix I to the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).