A stout, globular frog, with a snout-vent length of about 40-50 mm. This species is sexually dimorphic, with females tending to be larger than males. Head very small. Nuchal fold present. Tympanum concealed. Foreleg short, reaching the middle of the body when adpressed. Hindleg very short. Fingers and toes roundish and free. Skin smooth. Olive-brown above, spotted with dorsal and lateral dark irregular blotches, belly dark scattered with pale yellow spots (Parker 1934; Cochran 1955; Cei 1980). This species releases a whitish skin secretion that can have antiparasitic and antifungal activities (Tempone et al. 2007).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay
This species is found in Paraguay; Corrientes and central and southern Chaco provinces in Argentina; the states of São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás, Ceará, Tocantins, Bahia, Maranhão, Piauí, Paraíba, in Brazil; and Southeastern Bolivia (IUCN 2006). Dermatonotus muelleri generally lives in open formations, though occasionally it can be found inside forest fragments (Silva and Rossa-Feres 2007) and near man-made facilities in urban areas (Ávila and Ferreira 2004). It occurs at elevations up to 1,500 m above sea level (IUCN 2006).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Like other microhylid frogs, it lives below ground. It feeds on termites and Isoptera. This species is an explosive breeder (Wells 1977), with reproduction occurring from September-November through February. Frequently, the breeding activity lasts 5 days. During the breeding period, the abundance of calling males can reach one thousand individuals. Oviposition takes place in water bodies (sometimes in farm ponds) in the shallows, with or without vegetation. A detailed description of the natural history and reproductive biology of this species can be found in Nomura (2003).
The tadpole is exotrophic and a suspension feeder, consuming algae (Baccilariophyceae, Chlorophyceae, Dinophyceae). Euglenoids have also been found alive and undamaged in the intestinal contents of D. muelleri tadpoles (Echeverría and Conforti 2000).
Adults may be eaten by marsupials, birds, dogs, and snakes (Nomura 2003).
The tadpole has no nares. The snout is rounded and truncate, and the body is rounded dorsally and depressed laterally. Eyes are lateral and small. The oral disc is absent, and keratinized mouthparts and papillae are both lacking. A dermal flap is present in front of the mouth, but the flap does not have jagged edges. The spiracle is ventral, as well as long and wide. The vent is short and medial and fused with the ventral fin. Both dorsal and ventral fins are low and convex. Dorsal fin rises at a low slope from the body-tail junction. Tail sheath is present.
The coloration of the tadpole is reddish-brown in dorsal view and whitish in ventral view, with translucent, slightly pigmented fins (Rossa-Feres and Nomura 2006). A detailed description of the tadpole's external morphology can be found in Vizotto (1967), Cei (1980), Lavilla (1992), Altig and McDiarmid (1999), and Rossa-Feres and Nomura (2006), with the latter commenting on some of the discrepancies between larval morphology descriptions by different authors. A description of the chondrocranium can be found in Lavilla (1992). The internal oral morphology was described by Echeverría and Lavilla (2000).
Trends and Threats
The population appears to be stable. This is a common species within its range, though generally hard to find due to its burrowing habits (IUCN 2006).
Relation to Humans
There are some breeding facilities that sell this species as a pet.
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Dams changing river flow and/or covering habitat
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Long-distance pesticides, toxins, and pollutants
This species is monotypic, having a single species in the genus.
This species was featured in news of the week 8 August 2022:
Studies of reproduction associated with skin glands among frogs are rare. However, work by Antoniezi et al. (2022) on Mueller’s Termite Frog (Dermatonotus muelleri) – a Brazilian microhylid known for its toxic skin secretion – showed that this species possesses poison glands that are uncommon among frogs: they are very large, elongated, one juxtaposed to the other, and occupying a considerable part of the dermal volume. The authors further showed that in males, adhesive glands were observed in the dorsum of the forefoot, ventral forearm, as well as the pectoral and anterior ventral regions. The disposition of such glands seems to compensate for the round and short forelimbs of Dermatonotus muelleri during amplexus through an axillary embrace. Their work contributes to our knowledge of skin gland diversity especially with respect to reproduction. (Written by Umilaela Arifin)
Altig, R., and McDiarmid, R. W. (1999). ''Diversity: familial and generic characterization.'' Tadpoles: The Biology of Anuran Larvae. R. W. McDiarmid and R. Altig, eds., The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Avila, R. W., and Ferreira, V. L. (2004). ''Riqueza e densidade de vocalizações de anuros (Amphibia) em uma área urbana de Corumbá, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil.'' Revista Brasileira de Zoologia, 21, 887-892.
Cei, J. M. (1980). ''Amphibians of Argentina.'' Monitore Zoologica Italiano, New Series Monografia, Firenze, 2, 1-609.
Cochran, D. M. (1955). ''Frogs of southeastern Brazil.'' Bulletin of the U.S. National Museum, 206, 1-423.
Echeverría, D. D., and Conforti, V. (2000). ''Euglenoids living in the intestines of microhylid tadpoles of Argentina.'' Alytes, 18, 81-89.
Echeverría, D. D., and Lavilla, E. O. (2000). ''Internal oral morphology of tadpoles of Dermatonotus muelleri and Elachistocleis bicolor.'' Journal of Herpetology, 34, 517-523.
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2006. Global Amphibian Assessment: Dermatonotus muelleri. www.globalamphibians.org. Accessed on 6 August 2008.
Lavilla, E. O. (1992). ''The tadpole of Dermatonotus muelleri (Anura: Microhylidae).'' Bolletino del Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino, 10, 63-71.
Nomura, F. (2003). Ecologia reprodutiva e comportamento de forrageio e escavação de Dermatonotus muelleri (Boettger, 1885) (Anura, Microhylidae). Master's Thesis, Universidade Estadual São José do Rio Preto, São Paulo.
Parker, H.W. (1934). A Monograph of the Frogs of the Family Microhylidae. British Museum, London.
Rossa-Feres, D. C., and Nomura, F. (2006). ''Characterization and taxonomic key for tadpoles (Amphibia: Anura) from the northwestern region of São Paulo State, Brazil.'' Biota Neotropica, 6, 1-26.
Silva, F. R., and Rossa-Feres, D. C. (2007). ''Uso de fragmentos florestais por anuros (Amphibia) de área aberta na região noroeste do Estado de São Paulo.'' Biota Neotropica, 7, 1-7.
Tempone, A. G., Melhem, M. de S. C., Prado, F. O., Motoie, G., Hiramoto, R. M., Antoniazzi, M. M., Haddad, C. F. B., and Jared, C. (2007). ''Amphibian secretions for drug discovery studies: a search for new antiparasitic and antifungal compounds.'' Letters in Drug Design and Discovery, 4, 67-73.
Originally submitted by: Diogo B. Provete (first posted 2008-07-17)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker, Michelle S. Koo (2022-08-15)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2022 Dermatonotus muelleri: Mueller's Termite Frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/2115> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Mar 28, 2023.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 28 Mar 2023.
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