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- Reptiles & Amphibians
Different Types of Frogs
Type of Frog
Poison dart frogs e.g. P. terribilis
Horned frogs e.g C. cranwelli
African clawed frogs e.g.
Fire bellied toads
Red eyed tree frog
There are Many Types of Frogs to Consider
There are over 4000 species of frogs spread out across all the continents except for Antarctica.
That number also includes toad species, scientifically, all toads are frogs. Generally they have a more warty skin (although you can't catch warts from them!), and usually live in a drier environment.
Rather than writing about the different scientific families of frogs, I will describe the different types form the point of view of their habitat requirements and personality. This is something you would want to consider if you are thinking about keeping them as pets.
Semi-aquatic frogs, the fire bellied toad
A very easy frog to keep as a pet. is the semi-aquatic fire bellied toad, Bombina orientalis. It has a lovely pale green and black dorsum and a brilliantly coloured orange belly with black splodges, which it displays to warn predators that it tastes bad, and is slightly toxic.
Despite being called a toad, B. orientalis spend a lot of time in water and should be housed in an aquarium which is divided into a land area and a water area.
It is a very active and amusing frog which is very easy to care for and can live for up to 10 years in captivity. In the wild it is found in rice paddies in Asia.
Toxic Dart Frogs and Mantellas
The vast majority of frogs secrete substances from their skins that protect them from bacteria and fungi. Some secretions are psychoactive, the giant waxy monkey frog plays a big part in Shamanic hunting rituals of certain Amazonian tribes.
However, some frogs are seriously toxic. The most famous, of course, are the poison dart frogs of South America.
These animals are described as toxic rather than venomous, because they don't bite or sting their victims. The most poisonous species is the golden poison frog, Phyllobates terribilis, also known as the Colombian. Secretion of one of these relatively small amphibians are enough to kill 10 grown men.
They get their common name because hunters in the Amazon used them to poison the tips of their blow darts. They generally produce a mixture of different toxins, the most powerful produced by P. terribilis is batrachotoxin which causes paralysis.
Only wild specimen are poisonous. They produce the toxins by concentrating alkaloids from tropical plants which are eaten by ants, their favourite food. Frogs that are kept in captivity and fed on fruit flies and carrot gut loaded crickets are perfectly safe.
These small frogs are very colourful, to advertise their dangerous properties to potential predators.
Similar to dart frogs and occupying the same ecological niche, are the mantelas of Madagascar. They are generally less toxic than their Amazonian equivalents, but are also very colourful.
The horned pacman frogs and relatives
The most common South American horned frog is Ceratophrys cranwelli, which is commonly referred to as a Pacman frog, for basically being ‘a mouth with legs’. Other representatives of this family are Ceratophrys ornata, and the comically sinister looking C. cornuta.
All three species of the horned toads are large (females approach 10cm in length), have huge mouths and matching appetites, and like to burrow in leaf litter or loose soil.
They will sit there with only their heads sticking out, which are usually well camouflaged among the leaf litter. They are ambush predators and generally move very little until an unsuspecting prey approaches them, when they leap on it and devour it.
Adults will eat full sized crickets and locusts, but also small mice. They will also be very interested in their owner’s fingers, which they mistake for food, care must be taken when feeding them or cleaning their enclosures to avoid a painful bite. They are also cannibalistic and must only be housed singly or the bigger animal will try to consume its tank mate. The tadpoles are also carnivorous and mainly eat other tadpoles.
Aquatic frogs like Xenopus laevis
African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis) are so named because 3 digits on their hind limb end in black claws, which is quite unusual for frogs. The scientific name Xenopus also translates to “strange foot”.
They come from South Africa, and have been used extensively in biological research since the fifties. One little known fact about them is that females will lay eggs when injected with urine from pregnant women. These frogs were used to test for pregnancy in the Fifties before simpler methods became available.
They are fully aquatic and should be housed in aquaria with no land area. However a few floating islands, or artificial plants are useful, to give them a chance to rest out of water. The frogs are quite large, females reaching a snout to tail length of 11cm, although the males are considerably smaller, and need a large aquarium. .
Xenopus are an extremely hardy and easy to maintain species and have the advantage of not requiring live food. They will readily eat pellets such as those used to feed turtles, which they will push into their mouths with their forelimbs. They do however appreciate pieces of meat such as beefheart and earthworms.
An interesting fact is that the 2012 Medicine and Physiology Nobel prize was given to Sir John Gurdon for work he did on Xenopus embryos.
The Surinam toad, another aquatic type of frog
Another type of a frog that spends all of its time in water is also one of the most bizarre looking amphibians, the Surinam toad, Pipa pipa . It is rather dull coloured and frankly looks like it has been squashed by a bus!
I guess although not pretty it does have excellent camouflage as it sits at the bottom of the river.
What it lacks in looks the Surinam toad makes up for in a truly interesting life cycle. When the female lays eggs and they are externally fertilized by the male, they roll onto the her back where they are absorbed into the skin, and stay there in little pockets until the toadlets are fully developed, and claw their way out into the water.
Surinam babies 'hatching' out of their mother
My Favourite Type, Tree Frogs
Tree frogs are some of my favourites. I love the way their sticky pads on their toes allow them to stick to terrarium glass. Some species are incredibly colourful, probably the most famous being the red eyed tree frog (RTF)from the Amazon rain forest of South America.
Like many other tree frogs it is nocturnal and spends most of the day curled up so its bright eyes and blue flanks are hidden and is actually well camouflaged among the greenery. If a predator approaches it will unwind displaying its big red eyes, orange feet and blue flanks, startling the snake or bird for long enough that it can escape.
Another huge favourite is the Australian White's tree frog, it is incredibly relaxed, with a voracious appetite and quite prone to obesity. It will get to know its keeper and greet his entry into the room with loud calls, hoping that a feeding of crickets is on its way.
Related to the RTF are the waxy monkey frogs from the genus Phyllomedusa. Rather than hopping they climb trees by grasping branches with their hands. They generally move very slowly and purposefully and excrete a variety of toxins.
They are referred to as "waxy" because of the substance they secrete from glands behind their ears which they spread all over their bodies to waterproof themselves so they can sit in the sun without drying out.