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Shovel-Nosed Frogs: Hemisotidae

Physical Characteristics

The species of shovel-nosed frogs have wide, rounded, and rather flattened bodies with thick, strong front and rear legs. The very short front toes have no webs between them. The hind toes, which are much longer than the front toes, have a little webbing in some species, but no webbing in others. The spotted snout-burrower, for instance, has no webbing between its back toes. The head of all species is short and blends back into the body without a noticeable neck. The frogs have rather small eyes with vertical pupils and a pointed snout with a hard, sharp end. This makes the snout look a bit like the edge of a shovel blade. The tongue in these frogs has a notch in the tip. They also have a groove or fold that runs across the top of the head from behind one eye to behind the other.

A close look at the heels of the rear feet reveals a large, flat bump, or tubercle (TOO-ber-kul). The tubercle, which is hard and rough like the callous a person might get on his or her hand, is located on the inside of each heel.

Beneath the skin, the shovel-nosed frogs have a thick skeleton, which gives them a very solid body. The bones in much of the frogs' front and back feet, not including the toe bones, are fused together for added strength. The shovel-nosed frogs do not, however, have a breastbone, also known as the sternum.

Many frogs in this family are brown or purple with yellow markings. The spotted snout-burrower, for example, is dark purple or brown with small yellow spots. The marbled snoutburrower is a bit different. It may have a brown or a dark green head and back. The back is covered with numerous dark brown to black blotches. Its head often has noticeable dark stripes extending from the snout past the eye and to the back of the head. Its sides and legs have yellow- to cream-colored speckles.

Many of the shovel-nosed frogs are quite small and only reach 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long from snout to rump. The spotted snout-burrower is an exception. This species, the biggest member of the family, grows to 3 inches (8 centimeters) long.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansShovel-Nosed Frogs: Hemisotidae - Physical Characteristics, Geographic Range, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Marbled Snout-burrower (hemisus Sudanensis): Species Account - HABITAT, DIET, SHOVEL-NOSED FROGS AND PEOPLE