AmphibiaWeb - Heleophrynidae


(Translations may not be accurate.)


6 species in 2 genera

Commonly Called Ghost Frogs

Heleophryne regis
Photo by Miguel Vences and Frank Glaw
(Click for family gallery)

This small family of slender, agile frogs is restricted to the southern tip of Africa, where its members are found along higher elevation stream regions. Two genera, Heleophryne and Hadromophryne, comprise this group. Adults have large eyes, vertical pupils, and triangular toe discs. Dorsal patterns consist of large spots on a lighter brown or green background. Due to their cold habitat, tadpoles are slow to develop. Major morphological characters uniting these species include the absence of larval jaw sheaths and the presence of many rows of denticles, as well as the presence in adults of triangular toe discs. Males are known to produce extra mucous and loosen their skin as they become more aquatic during breeding season.

Heleophrynidae is the sister taxon of all remaining Neobatrachia, which is majority of all frogs.

Written by AmphibiaWeb

Notable Family Characteristics

  • Inhabits high elevation montane forests and cold, fast-moving streams
  • Tadpoles are Type 4 (Orton) and have large suction oral discs with many denticles but no keratinous beaks
  • Morphological characters include: large eyes, vertical pupils, webbed frogs, triangular toe discs
  • Distribution limited to the mountainous regions of southern Africa
Heleophrynidae Richness map

Cartography Credit: Zoe Yoo, UC Berkeley
Range maps sources: AmphibiaWeb, UC Berkeley, and IUCN RedList

Relevant Reference

Pough, F. H., R. M. Andrews, M. L. Crump, A. H. Savitzky, K. D. Wells, and M. C. Brandley. 2015. Herpetology. Fourth Edition. Massachusetts: Sinauer.

Vitt, L. J., and J. P. Caldwell. 2013. Herpetology. An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Fourth Edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Genus Hadromophryne (1 species)
Hadromophryne natalensis account photos no sound/video

Genus Heleophryne (5 species)
Heleophryne hewitti no account no photos no sound/video
Heleophryne orientalis no account photos no sound/video
Heleophryne purcelli no account no photos no sound/video
Heleophryne regis no account photos no sound/video
Heleophryne rosei account no photos no sound/video

Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: (Accessed:

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