CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


African Clawed Frog - Xenopus laevis

(Daudin, 1802)
Click on a picture for a larger view



African Clawed Frog California Range Map
Introduced Range: Red


Alien Herps in California


Listen to this frog:

speaker
A short example




observation link






This is an alien species that has been introduced into California. It is not a native species.

It is unlawful to import, transport, or possess this species of frog in California
except under permit issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

(California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Excerpts, Section 671)

African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog
  Adult in aquarium, San Diego County  
African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog
Adult, Los Angeles County © Todd Battey Juvenile, Orange County
© 2004 William Flaxington
Adult and Juvenile, Orange County
© 2004 William Flaxington
African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog
Adult, Florida, © Dick Bartlett Adult, Orange County © Jeff Ahrens Adults in Amplexus © William Leonard

Amplexus is inguinal, or around the female pelvis, unlike the majority of California's frogs.
African Clawed Frog African Clawed Frog    
Most frogs use a large sticky tongue to grasp food and pull it into the mouth, but the African Clawed Frog has no tongue, being a member of the family Pipidae, the Tongueless Frogs. It is a scavenger, eating live food or dead organic waste that it locates with very sensitive fingers on its hands, an acute sense of smell, and a system of sense organs on the skin which can detect movement and vibrations in the water. It pounces on anything that moves, sucking it in through the mouth, and using its hands and feet to push the food towards its mouth and the claws on its feet to tear apart large chunks of food when necessary.
   
     
Tadpoles
African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole
Tadpole out of water, San Diego County Tadpole underwater, San Diego County The African Clawed Frog tadpole is a filter feeder. It swims with the head down, vibrating its tail rapidly to stir up tiny bits of food particles which are sucked into the mouth and filtered out of the water which is expelled.
African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole
Tadpole in aquarium, San Diego County Tadpole with mouth open
African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole African Clawed Frog Tadpole
Tadpoles in shallow water, Orange County. © Jonathan Hakim
Tadpoles, San Diego County © Jay Keller
   
Habitat
African Clawed Frog Habitat African Clawed Frog Habitat
African Clawed Frog Habitat
African Clawed Frog Habitat
Habitat, seasonal pond, San Diego County Habitat, Los Angeles County Habitat, Los Angeles County
© Todd Battey
African Clawed Frog Habitat African Clawed Frog Habitat African Clawed Frog Habitat African Clawed Frog Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County
Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, Orange County
       
Short Video
African Clawed Frog Tadpole      
A tadpole swimming underwater, showing the rapid movement of its tail and the suction of its large funnel-like mouth.
     
     
Description
 
Size
Adults are 2 - 5 5/8 inches long from snout to vent (5.1 - 14.3 cm).

Appearance
A smooth-skinned frog with a flattened body and a small head with a blunt snout and small upturned eyes with no lids. Olive to brown above, with dark markings. Whitish below, sometimes spotted. No tongue. Forefeet are unwebbed. Hind feet are fully webbed with sharp black claws on the inner toes. Tadpole is translucent with tentacles at the mouth corners and a slender tail ending in a filament.

Life History and Behavior
Totally aquatic, but will move over land on rainy nights and at night when their water source dries up, sometimes in mass migrations. Able to tolerate brackish habitats. Cannot tolerate loss of water or sustained travel over dry land. When pond water evaporates, frogs make and stay in shallow pits in the mud where the water temperature remains cooler than the surface temperature. In Africa, frogs burrow deep into the mud that remains when a seasonal pond dries up, where they can survive for at least 8 months without food.

When not feeding, frogs rest on the bottom or on rocks. Has been observed tolerating a wide range of conditions, including 40 percent seawater, freezing water, hot desert conditions, long periods without food, and estivating without water.

Releases slippery mucous secretions from the skin to repulse predators.

Adults live up to 16 years.
Voice  (Listen)
A 2-part trill, about 1/2 second, repeated up to 100 times per minute. Males have no vocal sacs and call from underwater during the day and at night. Calls are only faintly heard in the air.
Diet and Feeding
Feeds on anything it can catch; aquatic invertebrates, fish, amphibians, including its own larvae and recent metamorphs.

A very formidable predator. Finds prey by scent, and uses its toothed jaws to hold the prey while shredding it with its rear claws and pushing it into the mouth with its forearms. This allows a frog to eat prey that is too large to swallow whole, and to scavenge.

Tadpoles swim with the head down, vibrating the tail filament to stir up food, including algae, diatoms, protozoans, and bacteria.
Reproduction and Young
Reproduction is aquatic.
Fertilization is external, with the male grasping the back of the female and releasing sperm as the female lays her eggs.

In California, breeds any time from January to November with a peak in April and May. In Africa, frogs are known to migrate to newly-filled rain pools to breed, but this has not been observed in US Populations.
Females mature quickly - about 6 months after metamorphosis. A female lays several hundred to thousands of eggs, depositing them singly or in small groups on vegetation and rocks. Females can produce multiple clutches each season. Eggs hatch in 2 to 3 days.
Tadpoles congregate in pools, often schooling and feeding in the middle of deeper water to avoid predation by fish. Transformation time in the wild is not known, but tadpoles transform in 10 - 12 weeks in captivity.

Habitat
In California, inhabits a variety of aquatic habitats, many of which have been disturbed or made by humans, including slow streams and drains, marshes, ponds, drainage ditches, flood channels, cattle tanks, sewage plant ponds, and golf course ponds. The highest densities of this species are found in permanent well-vegetated waters with soft substrates that do not freeze. Inhabits waters in arid and semi-arid regions in its native South Africa.

Geographical Range
Originally native to South Africa. Brought to the US in the 1940's and widely used as a standard amphibian for laboratory study and human pregnancy testing in the 1940's and 1950's. (When injected with the a pregnant woman's urine, the frog releases eggs.)  A popular aquarium pet, it is now banned in several states including California. Released or escaped laboratory animals and pets were introduced into California mostly before the species was banned in California in the 1960s.

First found established in the wild in California in 1968. It has become established in California primarily in San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles counties, but has also been found elsewhere, including San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Imperial, Kern, Ventura, and Yolo Counties, and in a small pond in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Xenopus has been reported from nine states including California, and besides those in California, established populations have also been found in Tucson Arizona, and extreme northern Baja California Del Norte.

Full Species Range Map    

Full Species Range Map
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Established and spreading. Most suitable freshwater aquatic habitats in California are at risk of colonization, especially with continued human-aided introductions. A threat to native amphibians and fishes, including several endangered species. Importation and possession of this frog is prohibited in California. Still a popular pet frog in some states, but banned in several others. Eradication efforts by using poisons, draining ponds, and collecting and removing frogs, are not usually successful at removing all frogs or preventing frogs from nearby areas to re-colonize the water source.

It is against the law to capture, move, possess, collect, or distribute this invasive species in California. See California Department of Fish and Game Restricted Species Regulations information: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/specialpermits/
See: California Department of Fish and Game Restricted Species Regulations
Taxonomy
Family Pipidae Tongueless Frogs Bonaparte, 1831
Genus Xenopus Clawed Frogs Wagler, 1827
Species laevis African Clawed Frog

(Daudin, 1802)
Original Description
Not available

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Not available

Alternate Names
None

Related or Similar California Frogs
None in California.

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

AmphibiaWeb

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.
Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Elliott, Lang, Carl Gerhardt, and Carlos Davidson. Frogs and Toads of North America, a Comprehensive Guide to their Identification, Behavior, and Calls. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

Lannoo, Michael (Editor). Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, June 2005.

Storer, Tracy I. A Synopsis of the Amphibia of California. University of California Press Berkeley, California 1925.

Wright, Albert Hazen and Anna Wright. Handbook of Frogs and Toads of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1949.

Davidson, Carlos. Booklet to the CD Frog and Toad Calls of the Pacific Coast - Vanishing Voices. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 1995.

Alan Burdick. Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.

Garvey, N. 2000. "Xenopus laevis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web



Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


It is against the law to capture, move, possess, collect, or distribute this invasive species in California.
See: California Department of Fish and Game Restricted Species Regulations
Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN
 

Home Site Map About Us Identification Lists Maps Photos More Lists CA Snakes CA Lizards CA Turtles CA Salamanders CA Frogs
Contact Us Usage Resources Rattlesnakes Sounds Videos FieldHerping Yard Herps Behavior Herp Fun CA Regulations
Beyond CA All Herps


Return to the Top

 © 2000 -