Miracles of Weird: The Emei Mustache Toad
By Lenny Pierce on April 5, 2014
Species: Leptobrachium boringii
Range: Mountains of southwestern China.
Weird Feature: Battle ‘stache
The world has seen some pretty bas ass mustaches over the years. From Yosemite Sam to Hulk Hogan to Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York and Tom Selleck in everything ever – the mustache has long been a symbol of inarguable masculinity. And while every mustache works to repel rival males, few do so as directly as that of the Emei mustache toad of southwest China. During breeding season, the toads will grow spines on their upper lip specifically to spike rivals males with. It’s enough to make Burt Reynolds look like a 6 year old.
When that special time of year rolls around (Feb-March), the toads will grow 10 to 16 spines and then head from their forest habitat to the swift mountain rivers where all the ladies at. Once there, they will pick out a nice rock and spend the next few weeks swimming around it making enticing grunting noises to attract females. Should any rival male decide he likes his neighbor’s real estate better than his own, the two will engage in bouts of upper lip butting until one of them yields. Fatalities in this process have never been observed, but the frogs do suffer numerous puncture wounds.
Even without the upper lip spines, there is an trademark signal that the Emei mustache toads are an aggressive species. The males are bigger than the females. In up to 90% of frog species, the females are larger. It is only in that remaining 10% of frog species that the males outgrow the females, and it is in this same group of species that the males exhibit aggression towards each other.
The video below from NewScientist shows two mustache toads going all triceratops on each other:
This level of aggression is pretty rare in the order Anura (frogs, toads, Frog & Toad), who on the whole are relatively docile. Even contests for mating rights are typically limited to wrestling and even simply posturing – the amphibian equivalent of yelling “come at me, bro!” with no true intention to fight. However, even given the gentle nature of most frogs, this is not the only species to pop fightin’ spikes out of unexpected body parts. Check out the horror frog‘s ability to actually break its own finger bones and force the bone shards out of its skin to slash its foes with.