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African Treefrogs: Hyperoliidae

Painted Reed Frog (hyperolius Viridiflavus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Painted reed frogs, also known as common reed frogs, are hard to describe because they come in so many colors and patterns. Some of them are striped in black and yellow from head to rump and on their legs. Some are speckled in green and black on a cream background or have a black-and-white spotted back and brown sides. Others are tan to brown with wide yellow and black bands on their sides and dark gray toes with orange tips. They have many different common names based on what they look like and where they live.

Despite the differences in colors and patterns, all painted reed frogs share certain features. They all have slender bodies, no noticeable Unlike most frogs that hide during the daytime, some of the painted reed frogs sit out in the open. (Illustration by Emily Damstra. Reproduced by permission.) neck separating the short head from the body, two large eyes with one on either side of the head, and thin legs. Their pupils are horizontal, and no eardrum shows on the side of the head. Their snouts narrow toward the front and are rounded at the end. The front and hind feet have webbing between the toes, and the toes have rounded pads at the ends. Their bellies are usually white, but sometimes may be pink. Male painted reed frogs have one large, dark gray vocal sac on their throats that blows up and deflates like a balloon when they call. Sometimes the vocal sac has tiny orange spots. The females do not have this sac, but they do have a side-to-side fold across the throat. They typically grow to about 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) in length.

Geographic range: They live over most of the southern two-thirds of Africa.

Habitat: Many of the painted reed frogs live in grasslands, but one group found in central Africa and a small area in West Africa makes its home in forests. They mate and lay their eggs in ponds and sometimes in swamps and even slow-moving streams.

Diet: These frogs probably eat arthropods.

Behavior and reproduction: Unlike most frogs that hide during the daytime, some of the painted reed frogs sit out in the open. Often, the frogs that sit in plain view are those that are brightly colored. These colors may be a warning sign to the predators that the frogs are not good to eat because they have poisonous skin. Many of the painted reed frogs that live in dry, hot grasslands are able to rest in the sun without drying out and dying because they can make a thin layer of mucus to cover their bodies. This mucus hardens into a waterproof coat that keeps the frog's skin moist inside. Some, especially the younger frogs, are also able to survive even if their bodies lose up to half of their weight in water. In particularly dry weather, many of the frogs become white. Darker colors soak up more heat from the sun, so the white color helps to keep the frog a bit cooler.

Painted reed frogs mate during the rainy season. The males sing together in choruses (KOR-us-es) or groups, which sounds like the ringing of small bells and can make a lovely music in the African grasslands and forests. Males call from tall grass-type plants, called reeds and sedges, along the shores of ponds, but sometimes also call from taller bushes and trees. Females lay up to a dozen eggs underwater on plants. In captivity, the frogs will often mate and lay eggs every few weeks during the breeding season, but this behavior has not been seen in the wild. The eggs hatch into tadpoles that turn into froglets. The young froglets may be quite large, and they may be able to become parents themselves later that same year. At least one research team reported that a female painted reed frog may sometimes turn into a male.

Painted reed frogs and people: The frogs may have poisonous skin, and some people in Africa believe that a cow will die if it eats a frog.

Conservation status: In its listing, the IUCN has split up the painted reed frog into several different species, which include the "main" species Hyperolius viridiflavus, the marbled or painted reed frog with the scientific name Hyperolius marmoratus, Hyperolius marginatus, and several others. The IUCN lists these three to be of "least concern," which means that they are under no known threat of extinction and the animals do not qualify for any of the Threatened categories. According to the IUCN, all three are very common, and one (the marbled reed frog) is even spreading into new areas, especially any new water pools that people make. These three frogs also make their homes inside various protected areas, which should limit the clearing of land where they live. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansAfrican Treefrogs: Hyperoliidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Bubbling Kassina (kassina Senegalensis): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, AFRICAN TREEFROGS AND PEOPLE