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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Malayan Treehole Frog

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3













Species : Metaphrynella pollicaris
Size (snout to vent) : Female 4.1 cm, Male 3.4 cm

Play call

This small, microhylid frog is more often heard than seen : the Malayan Treehole Frog adds its distinctive call to the night-time sounds of Peninsular Malaysia's hill resorts such as Fraser's Hill, Cameron Highlands or Maxwell Hill.

Males call from the inside of water-filled tree holes, particularly favouring the interior of thick bamboo stems if available. Studies show they are able to adjust the pitch of their simple piping call to match the acoustic properties of their chosen hole, and the amount of water with which it is filled, thus achieving a  resonance which carries their call a long distance. Thus, they 'play' their tree hole like a woodwind musical instrument. On active nights, when males are desperately trying to attract a female to their hole to mate, the overall effect is of an evening chorus of random, but melodic 'peeps' and 'whoops' from all directions in the forest.

Mating takes place inside the tree hole, where the eggs soon hatch to tadpoles, which in turn metamorphose to young froglets. When ready, these emerge as young adults from their confinement, presumably to go in search of their own hole.

The Malayan Treehole Frog is attractively patterned with vague banding and mottled patches of light brown, orange-brown, dark brown, fawn and cream. The head is sometimes of darker brown. Its skin surface is rough.

Metaphrynella pollicaris is restricted to montane areas of Peninsular Malaysia up to around 2000 metres elevation. A closely-related species, the Bornean Treehole Frog Metaphrynella sundana, occurs in Borneo.

Fig 1 and 2 : Resting on a tall blade of grass.  Fraser's Hill, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 3 : Clinging to the whitewashed wall of a colonial-era bungalow.  Fraser's Hill, Peninsular Malaysia.

References : H3