Added 22 September 2003. Last updated 2016: extensively updated Introduction and Neobatrachian families.

A rough guide to

ANURAN FAMILIES



The classification, or taxonomy, of the frogs and toads is quite complicated and often disputed, even among scientists themselves. While most can agree on the species, how they fit together to form families is not always clear.

The following is a rough guide to the different families. It does not claim to be completely authoritative or completely accurate, but it follows the rough scheme in Bartlett, who in turn followed Duellman and Frost (1985 & 1986), and was brought up to date using the taxonomic model at the now-defunct website LivingUnderworld. Any mistakes are however my own! Its main goal is to give you an idea of the characteristics of some of the better-known frogs and toads and how they fit in with one another.

It should be noted that at a higher level, both frogs and toads (Anura) and newts and salamanders (Caudata or Urodela), together with the caecilians (Gymnophiona) are placed together in the Lissamphibia, to distinguish them from the ancient (and extinct) forms Labyrinthodontia and Lepospondyli.

Note, October 2016

Since this page was put up over 10 years ago, there have been a number of large-scale revisions of the taxonomy of the Neobatrachia. These are now included on this page. However the reader should be aware that there is still some disagreement and uncertainty over the exact relationships between these groups.

 

ALPHABETICAL INDEX

 

Family Allophrynidae

Family Artholeptidae, Sub-Saharan Frogs

Family Ascaphidae, Tailed Frogs 

Family Bombinatoridae, Fire-Bellied Toads

Family Brachycephalidae, Bronze Frogs 

Family Bufonidae, True Toads 

Family Centrolenidae, Ghost/Glass Frogs 

Family Dendrobatidae, Poison Dart Frogs 

Family Discoglossidae, Painted Frogs 

Family Heleophrynidae, S African Ghost Frogs

Family Hemisotidae, Shovel-Snouted Frogs

Family Hylidae, Tree Frogs

Family Hyperoliidae, Reed and Bush Frogs 

Family Leiopelmatidae, New Zealand Frogs

Family Leptodactylidae, Leptodactylid Frogs

Family Mantellidae, Mantellas

Family Megophryidae, Asian Toads 

Family Microhylidae, Narrow-Mouthed Frogs 

Family Myobatrachidae, Antipodean Frogs 

Family Nasikabatrachidae, Indian Burrowing Frog

Family Pelobatidae, European Spadefoot Toads

Family Pelodytidae, Parsley Frogs

Family Pipidae, Clawed Frogs

Family Pseudidae, Pseudid Frogs

Family Ranidae, True/Pool Frogs

Family Rhacophoridae, Foam-Nest Frogs

Family Rhinodermatidae, Mouth-Brooding Frogs

Family Rhinophrynidae, Burrowing Toad

Family Scaphiopodidae, Spadefoot Toads

Family Sooglossidae, Seychelles Frogs

ORDER ANURA


Suborder Archeobatrachia [literally, "old" or "ancient" frogs]


 

Superfamily Discoglossoidea


 

 

 

Family Ascaphidae - Tailed Frogs: 2 species

1-2 species of the North American genus Ascaphus, or "tailed frog", so-called because of its. Lacks tympanic membrame but retains primitive tail-wagging muscles even though tadpole phase is omitted.

 

 

Family Bombinatoridae - Fire-Bellied Toads

2 genera, Bombina, the Fire-Bellied Toads, and Barbourula, a similarly aquatic genus of 2 species from the Philippines.

 

 

Family Discoglossidae - Painted Frogs

2 genera and 10 species. Tongue cannot be extended, unlike in most other anurans. Includes Discoglossus, Painted Frogs and Alytes, the Midwife Toads.

 

 

Family Leiopelmatidae - New Zealand Frogs

3-4 species of the genus Leiopelma. In common with Ascaphus (which was once considered part of this family), lacks tympanic membrame but retains primitive tail-wagging muscles even though tadpole phase is omitted. The only native frogs to New Zealand.

 

Superfamily Pelobatoidea


 

 

 

Family Megophryidae: 136 species

Considered a subfamily of the Pelobatidae by some. Includes the genus Megophrys (22 species) of which the Asian horned frog, M. montana, is perhaps the only well-known representative, plus 9-10 other genera from SE Asia and the Indo-Australian archipelago.

 

 

Family Pelobatidae - European Spadefoot Toads: 4 species

The genus Pelobates.

 

 

Family Pelodytidae - Parsley Frogs: 3 species

Single genus Pelodytes with species, including the European Parsley Frog, Pelodytes punctatus, in widely separated ranges.

 

 

Family Scaphiopodidae - American Spadefoot Toads: 7 species

Formerly considered a part of the Pelobatidae. Includes Scaphiophus (North American Spadefoot Toads: 6 species) and monotypic Spea. These species from North America are usually from very arid environments and in the wild often burrow down into the soil and protect themselves in a cocoon of several layers of shed skin. However, they have been kept successfully in the terrarium without resorting to these conditions.

 

Superfamily Pipoidea


 

 

 

Family Pipidae - Clawed Frogs: 30 species

Very aquatic group that lack tongues.

 

 


Subfamily Dactylethrinae/Xenopodinae

LivingUnderworld.org shows this subfamily divided into two Tribes: the Hymenochirini (Hymenochirus, the Dwarf Clawed Frogs, and Pseudohymenochirus) and the Xenopodini (Xenopus , the Clawed Frogs, and Silurana). Hymenochirus (Dwarf African Clawed Frogs) contains 2-4 species (authorities differ), of which H. curtipes and H. boettgeri are sometimes seen in the pet trade. Xenopus (African Clawed Frogs) has 7 species, of which two (X. laevis, the African Clawed Frog, and X. tropicalis) are most commonly seen, especially X. laevis.

 

 


Subfamily Pipinae

Contains single genus of Pipa, which also has an interesting mode of reproduction. All seven species in this genus are totally aquatic and found in the north of South America.

 

 

Family Rhinophrynidae - Burrowing Toad: 1 species

The Mexican Burrowing Toad, Rhinophrynus dorsalis, from southern US as far south as Costa Rica.

Suborder Neobatrachia [literally, "new frogs"]


 

Superfamily Bufonoidea


 

 

 

Family Brachycephalidae - Bronze Frogs: up to 6 species

"Gold frogs": very small frogs found on the coast of S Brazil. 1-2 genera are recognised, usually Brachycephalus but also more recently Psyllophryne.

 

 

Family Bufonidae - True Toads: 330+ species

Worldwide distribution with the exception of Australia (except for the imported and pestilential Cane Toad, B. marinus), Madagascar and most oceanic islands [Coborn]. Although Bufo species have the typical dry warty skin of the typical toads, not all species in this family resemble the "average toad" so closely: the Atelops "toads", better known as Harlequin Frogs, are quite delicate. There are 25 genera in the Bufonidae.

 

 

Family Heleophrynidae - South African Ghost Frogs: 8 species

1 genus, confined to southern Africa.

 

 

Family Leptodactylidae - Leptodactylid Frogs: over 1,100 species

Includes the horned frogs and the large genus Eleutherodactylus which contains over 400 species. 4 subfamilies:

 

 


Subfamily Ceratophryinae

Horned frogs and relatives. 2 genera, Ceratophrys (horned frogs, 6 species) and Lepidobatrachus (includes Budgett's frog, a creature with similar appetites to Ceratophrys).

 

 


Subfamily Hylodinae

3 genera: Crossodactylus, Hylodes and Megaelosia.

 

 


Subfamily Leptodactylinae

These frogs lay their eggs in foam nests. 11 genera.

 

 


Subfamily Telmatobiinae

Distinguished mainly by the enormous genus Eleutherodactylus, with over 400 species. Most however are not seen within the pet trade. LivingUnderworld notes a number of "tribes" within this subfamily.

 

 

Family Myobatrachidae - Antipodean Frogs: 122 species

All species confined to Australia and New Guinea. Contains a wide variety of shapes and lifestyles.

 

 


Subfamily Limnodynastinae

11 genera

 

 


Subfamily Myobatrachinae

12 genera 

 

 

Family Nasikabatrachidae


First named in 2003. Single species found in W India.

 

 

Family Rhinodermatidae - Mouth-Brooding Frogs: 2 species

As their name suggests, both species in this family incubate their eggs inside their mouths. Both are found at the tip of South America.

 

 

Family Sooglossidae - Seychelles Frogs: 4 species

Contains two genera, all native to the Seychelles and all protected.

 

Superfamily Hyloidea


 

 

 

Family Allophrynidae: 1 species

Single species Allophryne ruthveni.

 

 

Family Centrolenidae - Glass/Ghost Frogs: 60 species

Two genera: found in Central and South America. Centrolene is a monotypic genus: Centrolenella contains the remaining species, which are collectively sometimes referred to as "glass" or "ghost frogs" owing to their translucent skin through which internal organs can sometimes be seen. Most of this family are otherwise similar in appearance to treefrogs.



Family Hemiphractidae

Formerly considered a subfamily of Hylidae: 7 genera of frogs distinguished by unusual breeding behaviour. Includes the marsupial frogs, Gastrotheca.




Subfamily Cryptobrachinae

Considered a full family by some authorities. Contains genera Cryptobrachus and Stefania.




Subfamily Hemiphractinae

Contains genus Hemiphractus.

 

 

Family Hylidae - Tree Frogs: 640+ species

Mostly but not all arboreal frogs. 4 subfamilies:

 

 




 

 


Subfamily Hylinae

Large subfamily with 23 genera, although classification is an ongoing process. These are the "typical" treefrogs, and includes the Cricket Frogs, Acris (2 species), Tree Frogs, Hyla (250 species), Osteopilus (3 species: includes the Cuban Tree Frog, O. septentrionalis), Chorus Frogs, Pseudacris (about 12 species) and Smiliscus (6 species found in N, C and S America). Distribution is across both Old and New World, with the exception of Australia (the Australian treefrogs are actually now considered members of the Pelodryadinae, see below).

 

 


Subfamily Pelodryadinae

3 genera, all from the Australo-Papuan region, including the popular Litoria (over 100 species, including the deservedly popular White's Tree Frog, L. caerulea) which is distributed across the entire region, and Nyctimistes (25 species). The species in this subfamily were formerly assigned to the Hylinae (Tree Frogs).

 

 


Subfamily Phyllomedusinae

3 genera found from Mexico as far south as Argentina. Includes Agalychnis (8 species, including the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, A. callidryas), Pachymedusa (1 species) and Phyllomedusa (33 species). Most of these frogs are beautiful and interesting but rather delicate captives.

 

 

Family Pseudidae - Pseudid Frogs: 8 species

Two genera found in S America east of the Andes. The genus Pseudis is noted for its tadpoles being many times the length of the adults, reaching up to 10"/25cm. The other genus is Lysapsus

 

Superfamily Ranoidea


 

 

 

Family Arthroleptidae - Sub-Saharan Frogs: 70+ species

 

 

 


Subfamily Arthroleptinae

"Squeakers", 8 genera and 70 species found in sub-Saharan Africa. This includes the so-called "Hairy Frog", Trichobatrachus robustus. Some authorities consider this subfamily a full family, the Arthroleptidae, and assign to it the subfamilies Arthroleptinae and Astylosterninae.

 

 


Subfamily Astylosterninae

5 genera found in sub-Saharan Africa: frogs with vertical pupils.

 

 

Family Dendrobatidae - Poison Dart Frogs: 215 species

A family of small but beautiful tropical frogs which are highly desirable to many keepers. The skin toxins vary from mildly to highly dangerous, although it seems that after about 18 months in captivity their power declines greatly. This is attributed to the absence of the local ants in captivity which in the wild would make up a considerable part of their diet. Although traditionally made up of four genera (Colostethus, Dendrobates, Epipedobates, Phyllobates), up to ten are accepted by some authorities (the lesser-known consisting of Allobates, Aromobates, Cryptophyllobates, Mannophryne, Minyobates and Nephelobates).

 

 

Family Hemisotidae - Shovel-Nosed Frogs: 9 species

Single genus of 9 species from sub-Saharan Africa: sometimes considered part of the Family Ranidae or a subfamily.

 

 

Family Hyperoliidae - Reed and Bush Frogs: 300 species

Restricted to the African continent and Madagascar and the Seychelles. Of these, usually only the Hyperolius (Reed Frog) species are seen in the pet trade. The family also includes Kassina (3 species) and Leptopelis (sometimes known as Bush Frogs).

 

 


Subfamily Hyperoliinae

12 genera: Hyperolius is a very large genus. The others are Acanthixalus, Afrixalus, Alexteroon, Arlequinus, Callixalus, Chlorolius, Chrysobatrachus, Cryptothylax, Heterixalus, Kassinula and Nesionixalus.

 

 


Subfamily Kassininae

5 genera: Kassina, Opisthothylax (monotypic), Paracassina, Phlyctimantis and Semnodactylus.

 

 


Subfamily Leptopelinae

Contains the single large genus Leptopelis.

 

 


Subfamily Tachycneminae

One monotypic genus from the Seychelles.

 

 

Family Mantellidae - Mantellas: 145 species

5 genera. This includes the fabulously beautiful and delicate Mantellas (genus Mantella), reminiscent in appearance of some poison dart frogs. All are native to the rainforests of Madagascar. Despite the apparent similarity to poison dart frogs, mantellas need to be kept somewhat cooler. Apart from Mantella, the subfamily includes the genera Aglyptodactylus, Boophis, Laliostoma and Mantidactylus.

 

 

Family Microhylidae - Narrow-Mouthed Frogs: 300+ species

Almost worldwide distribution, including Australia. The typical species is rather round and tends to burrow, although there are some arboreal species from Madagascar. The family includes the blood-red Discophus species, better known as Tomato Frogs, the Narrow-Mouthed Frogs, Gastrophryne sp. Apart from a few species such as the Tomato Frog, there is little information commonly available on these anurans.




Subfamily Adelastinae

Single species.

 

 


Subfamily Asterophryinae

Found in the Australo-Papuan region. 8 genera: Asterophrys, Barygenys, Callulops, Hylophorbus, Mantophryne, Pherohapsis (monotypic), Xenobatrachus and Xenorhina.

 

 


Subfamily Breviciptinae

5 genera: Balebreviceps, Breviceps, Callulina (monotypic), Probreviceps and Spelaeophryne.




Subfamily Chaperininae

Single species.

 

 


Subfamily Cophylinae

7 genera: Anodonthyla, Cophyla, Madecassophryne, Platypelis, Plethodontohyla and Stumpffia.

 

 


Subfamily Dyscophinae

2 genera, Calluella and Discophus - the latter includes the popular Tomato Frogs.




Subfamily Gastrophryninae

11 genera.

 

 


Subfamily Genophryninae

Found in the Australo-Papuan region: two genera, Cophixalus and Sphenophryne, occur in Australia, the other five being restricted to New Guinea.




Subfamily Hoplophryninae

3 species in 2 genera.




Subfamily Kalophryninae

1 genus, Kalophryne.

 

 


Subfamily Melanobatrachinae

1 species, Melanobatrachus. Formerly contained the genera Hoplophryne and Parhoplophryne, which were both subsequently placed in the subfamily Hoplophryninae.

 

 


Subfamily Microhylinae

Large grouping of about 30 genera, although some of these are monotypic. Includes Kaloula, which is sometimes available, and the North American Gastrophryne (Narrow-Mouthed Toads).

 

 


Subfamily Otophryninae

Single genus of 3 species.

 

 


Subfamily Phrynomerinae

Contains the single genus Phrynomantis (5 species).

 

 


Subfamily Scaphiophryninae

Contains two genera, Paradoxophyla (monotypic) and Scaphiophryne.

 

 

Family Ranidae - Pool/True Frogs: 700+ species

Until recently this family was considered to contain over 700 species, but within the past couple of decades reclassification has removed some genera and placed them within new families. Likewise the genus Rana itself has also been split into some new ones, including European species. As a rule these "typical frogs" are found in temperate zones as well as tropical and subtropical areas, being absent only from southern South America and most of Australia. The genus Rana alone contains about 270 species and includes such notables as R. catesbiana (American Bullfrog), R. pipiens (Leopard Frog - actually a complex of species), R. temporaria (European Common Frog), R. esculenta (Edible Frog), R. ribiens (Marsh Frog) and R. lessonae (Pool Frog).

 

Family Rhacophoridae - Foam-Nesting Tree Frogs: 200+ species

A family of frogs from Africa and SE Asia that resemble Eurasian and North American treefrogs. Most if not all produce their young in foam nests on treetrunks. The group includes the so-called "Flying Frogs", which can actually glide thanks to heavy webbing around their feet. There are 2 subfamilies. Philautinae, which was once considered a possible subfamily of the Rhacophoriae, is now no longer recognised.

 

 


Subfamily Buergeria

1 genus, Buergeria (4 species). Not all authorities consider this a subfamily.

 

 


Subfamily Rhacophorinae

7 genera: Chirixalus, Chiromantis, Micrixalus, Nyctixalus, Polypedates, Rhacophorus (Flying Frogs) and Theloderma. Polypedates and Rhacophorus are both fairly large in terms of numbers.

Bibliography

Frogs and Toads of the World, Chris Mattison, Blandford Press. Very useful and informative introduction to the Order Anura, although some of the taxonomy may now be slightly out of date.

Keeping and Breeding Amphibians, Chris Mattison, Blandford Press.

The Proper Care of Amphibians, John Coborn, TFH, 1992. Although I have been often critical of Coborn's books in the past - some, notably on lizards, have contained erroneous information - this is not a bad one. It is very useful for an oversight of all the amphibian families and contains some information on many species which are rarely seen in captivity.

Frogs, Toads and Treefrogs, RD and Patricia P Bartlett, Barron's Educational Series, 1996. This is a good book for details on the captive husbandry of the most common anurans you are likely to see offered in the pet trade.

Links

Jessica Miller's LivingUnderworld has a wealth of information on many amphibian species. The site also shows an up-to-date version of the most recent taxonomic models.


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