234 species in 17 genera
Commonly Called African Reed Frogs, Running Frogs
Photo by Robert C. Drewes
Photo by David Blackburn
(Click for family gallery)
The family Hyperoliidae consists of over 200 species. The diversity of hyperoliids is restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and several islands. One genus, Heterixalus, is endemic to Madagascar; Tachycnemis is found only in the Seychelles Islands. One of the most basal genera, Kassina (running frogs), is terrestrial, but most remaining genera are arboreal (the vernacular name of the family refers to the sedge and bush frogs). Tadpoles typically inhabit ponds, or possibly slow-moving parts of streams, and usually have large tailfins. Many species exhibit bright colors and striking patterns, which are sexually dimorphic in some species. One example is Hyperolius argus, which has been used to study the effects of estrogen-like compounds on development of reproductive organs and external secondary sex features. Males of nearly all species have a prominent gular pad and compete over calling sites. Acanthixalus may communicate via pheromones rather than typical advertisement calls.
Taxonomy is still unsettled for some groups within Hyperoliidae, particularly the following:
The Hyperolius nasutus group, consisting of H. nasutus, H. acuticeps, H. adspersus, H. igbettensis, H. benguellensis, and possibly H. lamottei and H. viridis. Both species delimitation and nomenclature are under debate. For a brief discussion, see the account for H. acuticeps.
The Hyperolius viridiflavus superspecies, where it is generally accepted that the group consists of several biological species, but where the species delimitation has not been settled. The superspecies is here treated as an entity under the name H. viridiflavus, and the forms which are regarded by some as full species are treated also under their respective names: H. angolensis, H. glandicolor, H. marginatus, H. mariae, H. marmoratus, H. nitidulus, H. pyrrhodichtyon, H. reesi, H. rhodesianus, H. sheldricki, H. swynnertoni, and H. viridiflavus.
The Afrixalus fulvovittatus complex, which probably consists of several cryptic species. In West Africa, the restricted western farmbush form A. fulvovittatus and the widespread savanna form A. vittiger are reasonably well separated. From Cameroun eastwards the taxonomy is unclear, with the names A. vittiger, A. quadrivittatus, and A. brevipalmatus used in recent literature.
The "Eastern Dwarf" Afrixalus are a bewildering group of small, savanna-living forms. The taxonomy used here follows the latest revision, that of Pickersgill (2007). This group consists of Afrixalus aureus, A. crotalus, A. delicatus, A. knysnae, A. morerei, A. septentrionalis, A. spinifrons, and A. stuhlmanni. (account by Arne Schiøtz)
July 22,2019: Despite the theory that sexually dimorphic traits under strong sexual selection lead to rapid diversification, phylogenetic studies testing for correlations between sexual dichromatism (sexual differences based on coloration and pattern) and diversification have had mixed results. Although sexual dichromatism is rare in most frogs, it is common in the species-rich African reed frogs (Family Hyperoliidae) with females being more strikingly ornate than males. Portik et al. (2019) examined the group to better understand the evolutionary origins of sexual dichromatism and how it relates to their diversification. Sexual dichromatism evolved once followed by multiple reversals to monochromatism. Clades displaying dichromatism had about double the rates of diversification of monochromatic clades. African reed frogs are a promising group for exploring the role of natural and sexual selection on the evolution of sexual dichromatism. (AChang)Written by AmphibiaWeb
Notable Family Characteristics
- Arboreal primarily, some terrestrial
- A range of habitats, forests and open savanna
- Diurnal in most
- Sexual dimorphism in some species, including striking dichromatism
- Morphological characters for this group are: 1) presence of unique gular gland; 2) nuptial pads absent; 3) posterolateral process of hyoid absent; 4) sternum cartilaginous; 5) dentomentalis muscle present; 6) pupil vertical in most.
- Distribution limited to sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and several islands, including the Seychelles
Cartography Credit: Zoe Yoo, UC Berkeley
Range maps sources: AmphibiaWeb, UC Berkeley, and IUCN RedList
Schiøtz, A. (1999). Treefrogs of Africa. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main.
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 Acanthixalus (2 species)
Acanthixalus sonjae account no photos no sound/video Acanthixalus spinosus account photos no sound/video
Genus Afrixalus (33 species)
Genus Arlequinus (1 species)
Arlequinus krebsi account photos no sound/video
Genus Callixalus (1 species)
Callixalus pictus account no photos no sound/video
Genus Chrysobatrachus (1 species)
Chrysobatrachus cupreonitens account photos no sound/video
Genus Congolius (1 species)
Congolius robustus account photos no sound/video
Genus Cryptothylax (2 species)
Cryptothylax greshoffii account photos no sound/video Cryptothylax minutus account no photos no sound/video
Genus Heterixalus (11 species)
Genus Hyperolius (155 species)
Genus Kassina (15 species)
Kassina arboricola account photos no sound/video Kassina cassinoides account photos sound/video Kassina cochranae account no photos sound/video Kassina decorata account photos no sound/video Kassina fusca account photos sound/video Kassina jozani account no photos no sound/video Kassina kuvangensis account photos no sound/video Kassina lamottei account photos no sound/video Kassina maculifer account photos no sound/video Kassina maculosa account photos no sound/video Kassina mertensi account no photos no sound/video Kassina schioetzi account photos no sound/video Kassina senegalensis account photos sound/video Kassina somalica account photos no sound/video Kassina wazae account no photos no sound/video
Genus Kassinula (1 species)
Kassinula wittei account photos no sound/video
Genus Morerella (1 species)
Morerella cyanophthalma no account no photos no sound/video
Genus Opisthothylax (1 species)
Opisthothylax immaculatus account photos no sound/video
Genus Paracassina (2 species)
Paracassina kounhiensis account photos no sound/video Paracassina obscura account photos no sound/video
Genus Phlyctimantis (5 species)
Phlyctimantis boulengeri account photos no sound/video Phlyctimantis keithae account photos no sound/video Phlyctimantis leonardi account photos no sound/video Phlyctimantis maculatus account photos no sound/video Phlyctimantis verrucosus account photos no sound/video
Genus Semnodactylus (1 species)
Semnodactylus wealii account photos no sound/video
Genus Tachycnemis (1 species)
Tachycnemis seychellensis account photos no sound/video
Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: https://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed:
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