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Ghost Frogs: Heleophrynidae - Behavior And Reproduction

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansGhost Frogs: Heleophrynidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Natal Ghost Frog (heleophryne Natalensis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, GHOST FROGS AND PEOPLE


During the day, they hide from sight under or between rocks, or in cracks within rocks. Their flattened bodies help them to squeeze into even small openings. At night, they hop out to look for food. Their sticky, wide front and back toe tips help them to climb easily up even the wet and slippery sides of streamside rocks. Predators often do not see these camouflaged frogs, but even when they do, they often leave them alone, because the frog's skin contains a mild poison that many predators learn to avoid.

In the breeding season, the skin on these frogs becomes baggy. They usually breed from spring to mid-summer after the heavy storms of the rainy season. Male ghost frogs group together at waterfalls or at a river or stream with a fast current and begin calling from a hiding place under a rock or in a rock crack or from a spot that is sprinkled with water from a waterfall. Some species call both day and night, but others call mostly at night. Depending on the species, the call may be quite loud or so quiet that it can only be heard from about 10 feet (3 meters) away. Some calls, like those of the Cape ghost frogs and Natal ghost frogs, are repeating ringing sounds. Male and female ghost frogs are excellent swimmers and spend much of the breeding season in the water.


Often, a tadpole's life depends on the water where it lives. Because tadpoles do most of their breathing through their gills, they have to remain in the water until they change into froglets, which can then breathe through their skin or with their lungs on land. In many species, the tadpoles are born into small watering holes and even puddles that dry up quickly. To survive, they must make the change into froglets while they are still only weeks or months old. In some species, like the ghost frogs, however, the tadpoles do not turn into froglets for 12 to 24 months. The adults must lay their eggs in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and/or wetlands that stay filled with water all year. Ghost frogs usually have their young in rivers and streams. Such waterways are called "permanent" because they are always, or permanently, filled with water. Those that dry up for part of the year are known as "temporary" watering holes, because they are only filled for a while, or temporarily.

The females lay their 50 to 200 eggs one at a time either in a slow part of the stream or river or in a puddle or other wet area alongside the river or stream. Some species attach their large and gel-covered eggs to the bottom of an underwater rock. After the eggs are deposited, the female and male leave, and the eggs and tadpoles develop on their own. Usually within a week, the eggs hatch into tadpoles, which may stay in the quiet water or move into faster flowing water. They use their suction-cup-shaped mouths to grab onto rocks, while they scrape algae from them with tiny teeth. The tadpoles typically change into froglets when they are 1 to 2 years old.

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