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threatened and/or endangered

African Clawed Frog Xenopus laevis


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African Clawed Frog
credit: Michael Linnenbach/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Pipidae, Tongueless Frogs view all from this family

Description Olive-brown or gray, with darker marks and mottling. All species are tongue less, toothless and have no external eardrums. Name derived from the horny black claws on the 3 toes of hind legs. Front feet are not webbed. Hind toes fully webbed. Males half the size of females; have dark nuptial pads on front limbs.Horny black claws on outer 3 toes of hind feet. Hind toes fully webbed. Male smaller than female; has dark nuptial pads on front limbs.

Dimensions Length: 2-3 3/4".

Voice Despite absence of vocal sacs, males give a loud, rattling croak while swimming. Females answer such noises with either a rapping (signifies acceptance) or a slow tickling (signifies rejection).

Breeding Occurs after warm, heavy rains (February to May in California). Sexually mature at 10-12 months. Mating usually occurs in Spring, can reproduce up to 4 times a year. Several hundred eggs are deposited singularly or in small clusters on submerged plants and stones. Tadpoles hatch within 36 hours; with catfish like whiskers at mouth corners and swim in a head-down position. Matures from egg to small frog in 6-8 weeks.

Habitat Warm, stagnant grassland ponds & slow-moving permanent streams, ponds and marshes. Ponds are usually devoid of higher plant vegetation and are covered by algae.

Range Occur naturally in South Africa. Substantial populations introduced to California (San Diego & Orange Counties), Chile & European countries.

Discussion Nocturnal. Although mainly aquatic, African Clawed Frogs sometimes turn up in rain pools, indicating land passage. Adept swimmers, they can't hop but crawl. Inactive creatures and when not mating or foraging, they rest quietly on the bottom or hide under rocks. Surfaces to breathe. Cutaneous/surface respiration – breathes through skin. Carnivorous creatures, they eat anything they are able to catch or that lands in front of them. Claws on hind feet tear apart larger pieces of food.