Micrixalus saxicola is a small frog, with the average male snout-vent length being 24.21 ± 0.74 mm and the average female snout-vent length being 32.44 ± 1.62 mm (Gururaja 2010). However, individuals reported by Biju et al. (2014) are considerably smaller with males having a snout-vent range between 20.0 - 21.6 mm and females ranging between 25.2 - 28.8 mm. The small head is longer than it is wide. The top of the head is flat and its snout appears sub-ovoid in the dorsal view. The snout length is longer than the horizontal diameter of the eye. The nostrils are oval shaped and closer to the eye than the tip of the snout. The loreal region is vertical with a flat interorbital space, which is wider than the upper eyelid. The pupil is oval. The tympanum is 40% of the diameter of the eye and the supratympanic fold that extends from the posterior corner of eye to near the shoulder, is weakly developed. The tongue is moderately large, emarginate, with lingual papillae. The forelimbs are shorter than the hand length. The hand has poorly defined, round palmar tubercles. The finger have discs with dorsal-terminal grooves that are moderately wide compared to the finger width. There is also a weakly developed prepollexed. The fingers do not have webbing. The thigh length is sub-equal to the shank and longer than foot. On the foot, the toe discs are wide compared to toe width, and toes are completely webbed with a formula of I 0 – 0 II 0 – 0 III 0 – 0 IV 0 – 0 V. The subarticular tubercles of the foot are well-developed, oval, single and present on all toes. The entire body, excluding the chest and abdomen, are shagreened in small, close-set tubercles (Biju et al. 2014).
Micrixalus saxicola is commonly confused with Micrixalus kottigeharensis and Micrixalus specca; however, M. saxicola differs from the similar species due to its thigh length being equal to the shank length. Micrixalus saxicola can also be distinguished from similar species by the smaller size of both male and females as well as the absence of dorsolateral folds, the tongue having lingual papilla, and the toes being fully webbed (Biju et al. 2014).
In life, M. saxicola is most commonly brown on the dorsum with reticulate marks of light brown or gray. The venter is white and the throat and chest are a dusky brown with white speckles. There are some variations in the color with both brown and yellow color morphs. The color morph variation takes place only on the dorsum and can vary between a dark brown to a medium dark yellow (Gururaja 2010). In preservation, the dorsum is dark brown. The lateral sides of the head (snout and tympanic area) are light gray. The flanks are light brown and the forelimbs, dorsal surfaces of thigh, tibia, and feet are a light grayish-brown with dark gray cross-bands. The throat, chest and belly are light grayish-yellow with minute black spots. Finally, the hands are light brown, feet are dark brown, and the webbing is light gray with minute black spots (Biju et al. 2014).
Micrixalus saxicola varies in size and color (Gururaja 2010, Biju et al. 2014).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: India
Micrixalus saxicola is distributed throughout the Western Ghats mountain range of India in Karnataka and adjoining regions in Kerala, but its range is restricted to the north of Palghat gap and south of Goa gap in the Western Ghats. The species typically inhabits dense, wet evergreen tropical forests and are primarily found along streams and river banks. They are typically found between 400 - 1400 m above sea level (Biju et al. 2014).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
M. saxicola, also known as the Malabar Tropical Frog, is a diurnal species and males can be found calling from rocks in the splash zone of streams (Biju et al. 2014).
Micrixalus saxicola is very vocal, often performing in choruses along the river banks (Biju et al. 2014). The call has a “Chir...chir..chir..chir..ri..ri..ri..ri..ri..” sound (Gururaja 2010). For a more complete description of the call, please see Krishna and Krishna (2006).
Male M. saxicola often fight between themselves by kicking each other with their incredibly long hind limbs. However, this “foot-flagging” display is used for more than just fighting; the males use their hind limbs for attracting a mate. The “foot-flagging” display also inspired the common name, Wayanad Dancing frog (Gururaja 2010).
Female M. saxicola do not display the foot-flagging behavior and also do not vocalize (Gururaja 2010).
Amplexus is axillary. Once amplexus occurs, the male will stop calling and the pair will travel together with the female carrying the smaller male on her back. Females search out small patches of stones, pebbles, or sand and may also use small cave for ovipositioning. At their chosen location females uses her hind limbs to dig an approximately 2 cm long, 2 cm wide, and 2 cm deep cavity filled with water where the pair stay until mating is over. After the two disengage, the female will cover the eggs and leave. She does not return. The male begins calling again several minutes after they complete mating (Gururaja 2010).
One female was observed laying a single clutch of 154 un-pigmented white eggs in a cavity. Eggs had a sticky jelly cover that stuck to each other and to the inner walls of the cavity. The average diameter of the eggs without their jelly layer is 2.09 ± 0.07 mm, while with the jelly layer, they average 2.5 ± 0.18 mm (Gururaja 2010).
Trends and Threats
Although IUCN has listed M. saxicola as “Vulnerable”, their current population is stable due to species-level protection by the national legislation of India. Their population had declined due to continuous clear-cutting of forest habitat as well as the modifications of waterways by dam construction (Biju et al. 2004). Another threat is from fungal infection by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which affects the skin of the amphibians along the Western Ghats and is widespread throughout Asia (Molur et al. 2015).
Biju, S.D., Dutta, S., Bhatta, G., Adoor, S. (2004). "Micrixalus saxicola." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T58384A11764402. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2004.RLTS.T58384A11764402.en. Accessed on 28 February 2022.
Biju, S.D., Garg, S., Mahony, S., Wijayathilaka, N., Senevirathne, G., Meegaskumbura, M. (2014). ''DNA barcoding, phylogeny and systematics of Golden-backed frogs (Hylarana, Ranidae) of the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot, with the description of seven new species.'' Contributions to Zoology, 83(4), 269-335. [link]
Gururaja, K. V. (2010). “Novel reproductive mode in a torrent frog Micrixalus saxicola (Jerdon) from the Western Ghats, India.” Zootaxa, 2642(1), 45. [link]
Krishna, S.N., Krishna, S.K. (2006) "Visual and acoustic communication in an endemic stream frog, Micrixalus saxicolus in the Western Ghats, India." Amphibia-Reptilia, 27, 143–147. [link]
Molur, S., Krutha, K., Paingankar, M. S., Dahanukar, N. (2015). “Asian strain of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is widespread in the Western Ghats, India.” Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 112(3), 251–255.
Originally submitted by: Kelly Shen (2022-04-06)
Trends and threats by: Kelly Shen
Edited by: Ann T. Chang (2022-04-06)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2022 Micrixalus saxicola: Wayanad Dancing Frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4821> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 30, 2023.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 30 Sep 2023.
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