The Malagasy rainbow frog leads a very secretive lifestyle. Seasonal climatic variations reduce this species’ main period of activity to the rainy season, and so this species can only be found at certain times of the year, especially between November and April after heavy rainfall. When conditions are wet, Malagasy rainbow frogs may be seen moving around on the ground. At other times these frogs burrow into the ground, or hide beneath rocks and in deep crevices.
During the rainy season (around October to February) the Isalo canyons become temporary fast running streams. After the rainfall the water remains in small pools within the rocks, creating the pools in which the Malagasy rainbow frog breeds. This species is adapted both for burrowing and climbing, which allows it to inhabit a varied environment of open, rocky areas of dry forest and the limestone canyons of the Isalo Massif. It has been observed jumping on to vertical canyon walls and climbing several meters from the ground. However, it is predominantly known for its underground lifestyle, and is thought to climb only to escape drowning in flash floods by finding refuge in small holes present higher up the canyon walls. These occur in the rock in areas where chalks have been lost from Isalo’s limestone karstic matrix. Despite its webbed hind feet, this species is not a strong swimmer. When burrowing, this species digs into the sands or soft substrate available in its natural habitat using specially adapted hind limbs.
Malagasy rainbow frogs live for 4-7 years and this species becomes sexually mature after 1-2 years. The breeding season runs from December to January, and 1000s of eggs can be produced by each female in a single spawning. Eggs are laid in temporary rock pools and the tadpoles are thought to develop relatively quickly (in 1-2 months) to avoid being washed away by sudden heavy rains. Tadpoles feed by filtering detritus from sand in the small rock pools where they live. During the night, they become very active and occupy the whole water column. Adult Malagasy rainbow frogs consume insects and other small invertebrates.
Franco is herpetologist with extensive knowledge of Madagascan amphibians
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