TIMOR-LESTE 2013

Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Phase VIII

Comoro River, Aileu District

One of the side projects of Phase VIII involved the collection of Asian black-spined toads (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) for stomach content analysis. Because this is a fairly recently introduced species, arriving from Southeast Asia, we have largely ignored it during previous phases, only taking occasional voucher specimens and monitoring its inexorable spread eastwards through Timor-Leste.

However, the collection of a specimen on the south coast during Phase VII with a Brahminy blindsnake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) protruding from its anus demonstrated that this introduced toad was feeding on vertebrates. The only other bufonid toad known to take vertebrates is the ubiquitous Cane toad (Rhinella marina) which was introduced into Australia in the 1930s. This discovery led to the suggestion that we should find out what the toads were taking in Timor and whether they were regularly feeding on small vertebrates. During Phase VIII we determined to voucher a number of toads from each location visited (they have not yet reached Lautém in the far east of Timor, nor Ataúro Island).

Download the toad and blindsnake paper here.

I took one Troopie loaded with the entire team, except Hinrich, who was still under doctor's bedrest orders while recovering from his dengue, back up to the confluence of the Comoro and Bemos Rivers. The main aim was to collect up to a dozen toads for the sub-project, but this was also where Sven had found the Boulenger's pipesnake (Cylindrophis boulengeri) in the banana forest at the beginning of the phase. Another specimen would be the icing on the cake. Sadly, the weather was still not promising with frequent heavy rainfall which not only made fieldwork a very wet business but also made the roads extremely 'challenging'!

My Troopie parked at the confluence of the
Comoro and Bemos Rivers
Two coconut palms indicate the banana forest location
Inside the banana forest Sven and Laca searching for toads and other herps

We collected a few Black-spined toads in the undergrowth but little else was in evidence.

Asian black-spined toad,
Duttaphrynus melanostictus