Species Spotlight

Desert Rain Frog

Names: Desert Rain Frog or Web-Footed Rain Frog or Boulenger’s Short-Headed Frog (Breviceps macrops).

Size: Roughly 1½ to 2 inches. About the size of a table tennis ball (with a squeak).

Communication sound: Believe it or not, these yellow-brown frogs scream when they’re angry! The sound, and their sandy, tiny-dog-toy vibe, has made them online sensations. 

Favourite hangout: Web-Footed Rain frogs live along South Africa and Namibia’s west coast where – unusually, for frogs – they’ve adapted to living without water. (Unlike the axolotl, who’s never been able to tear itself out of its original element.) Hardly surprising then, considering they’re technically amphibians, that they prefer moist, foggy areas. They live underground, burrowed into sand dunes covered with vegetation, emerging after dark when it’s cooler.

Favourite snack: Termites, ants, beetles, moths and – sharp intake of breath – spiders! They catch them with their tongues.

Love language: During the breeding season from June to October, male frogs squeak to attract females. Kind of like the froggy equivalent of ‘Hey babe! Got something in mind?’ If the lady’s interested, she lets him know and the couple get to it, aided, so it’s said, by their skin’s corresponding stickiness. (An adaptation to this amphibians’ land-based lovin’, apparently.) Afterwards, she lays anywhere between 12 and 40 mucus-topped eggs in her burrow. 

If you see them: You might get more than you bargained for! The thin skin on their bellies is said to be see-through! Talk about a breathing, digesting biology lesson?!

Pet peeves: Losing their habitat as more of it gets criss-crossed by roads, hived off for diamond mines, grazing for domestic animals, and built on. 

Glow-up: Desert Rain Frogs emerge from eggs as froglets in late summer/ early autumn, presumably having decided eons ago that the tadpole stage was not for them. With no fresh water to frolic in, littluns are independent from the get-go, and eager to get hunting. Like their parents, they survive by absorbing moisture from fog and from the sand it collects on, through their tummies. 

Facts: Some consider this paradoxical amphibian’s bulging eyes, short legs, and stout body adorable. Even so, the Desert Rain Frog’s body type doesn’t lend itself to hopping. Instead, these web-footed critters walk – as fast as 3mph when they’re in a tight spot! Most live somewhere between four and 15 years.

Personality type? The Screamer! 

How at risk is it? Vulnerable (VU)

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