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Clawed Frogs and Surinam Toads: Pipidae

Surinam Toad (pipa Pipa): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The Surinam toad is nothing less than bizarre. Its body is so flat that it appears as if it has been run over. It has a triangular-shaped head that comes to a point at the end of the snout. Its fairly short hind legs have huge, webbed feet. Each of the toes on its short front legs is split at the end into four pieces that almost look like four more small toes, and each of these small "toes" is split again at the tip into two more. It also has tiny, spiny bits of skin poking out from the sides of its mouth. Two tiny eyes may peer out from the top of the head, but sometimes they are completely hidden The female Surinam toad incubates eggs on her back, which remain there for three or four months. At that time, the eggs hatch right into froglets. (Photograph by Tom McHugh/Steinhart Aquarium. Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.) underneath flesh. The Surinam toad also has two slits for nostrils on the top of its head. Its body is dark brown, grayish brown, or tan and often has a blotched pattern. Its underside has a T-shaped marking with the top of the T running across the chest. Females are usually a bit larger and can grow to 4 to 7 inches (10.5 to 17.1 centimeters) long from the snout to the rump. The males usually reach no more than 6 inches (15.4 centimeters) long.

Geographic range: The Surinam toad lives in the northern and central parts of South America, including Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Surinam (also sometimes spelled Suriname) in the north, and south into Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It also lives on the West Indies island of Trinidad.

Habitat: The Surinam toad lives on the bottoms of mucky ponds and swamps, as well as in slow-flowing streams and rivers throughout the lowland rainforests. It does not live in the mountains.

Diet: This toothless, tongueless frog catches small fish and invertebrates underwater by lunging at the prey while opening wide its mouth and blowing up its body. This sucks in the water and the prey together. Using its front feet, it pushes the prey farther into its mouth.

Behavior and reproduction: This frog stays still and rests in the mucky water bottom much of the time, but it will move on land from pond to pond on very rainy nights. Because it usually stays out of sight, scientists know little else about its non-mating behavior. During the mating season, they call with a sharp clicking noise. The males grab onto the females in piggyback fashion, hanging on in front of her hind legs. The frog pair rolls over while floating in the water, and the female lays three to five eggs while she is in the upside down position. The eggs catch on the male's belly, then drop onto the female's back as the pair completes the roll. Instead of the eggs sticking to vegetation or floating off into the water as they do with most frogs, the eggs stay on the mother's back, where they become caught. Her skin swells up around the sides of each egg. In all, she may have about 50 eggs on her back, which remain there for the next three or four months. At that time, the eggs hatch right into froglets, which pop right out of her back.

Surinam toads and people: Some people eat these frogs.

Conservation status: This species is not considered to be at risk. ∎



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Web sites:

"African Clawed Frog." Smithsonian National Zoological Park. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/ReptilesAmphibians/Facts/FactSheets/Africanclawedfrog.cfm (accessed on February 14, 2005).

"Frog Facts: About the African Clawed Frog." Fluffy's Frog Pond. http://fluffyfrog.com/FrogPondFactsF.html (accessed on February 14, 2005).

"Froggiecam." Ferrell Lab, Stanford University. http://www.stanford.edu/group/ferrelllab/frogtank.html (accessed on February 12, 2005).

"Frogs: A Chorus of Colors." American Museum of Natural History. http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/frogs/featured/laboratory.php (accessed on February 14, 2005).

"Xenopus laevis African Clawed Frog." Western Ecological Research Center, San Diego Field Station, U.S. Geological Survey. http://www.werc.usgs.gov/fieldguide/xela.htm (accessed on February 12, 2005).

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Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansClawed Frogs and Surinam Toads: Pipidae - Physical Characteristics, Geographic Range, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Clawed Frogs, Surinam Toads, And People - HABITAT