Adults 22-29 mm. Head, dorsum and flanks deep black. Rostral and frenal stripes absent. Proximal part of femur and humerus generally red (exceptionally orange or yellow). This colour extending onto the flanks as small flank blotches, and is also present as a broad band on tarsus and foot (sometimes disrupted by black markings). A light spot below the eye sometimes present. No flashmarks. Iris without light pigment. Ventral side black with circular whitish-blue markings. Single markings on throat, but no horseshoe marking. Broad red bands on tibia, tarsus and foot which correspond to those on the dorsal surface. Colour morphs intermediate between baroni and cowani occur, probably due to hybridization.
Similar species: None, but hybrids with M. baroni occur.
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Madagascar
Ambatodradama, Antoetra, Antratrabe, Betafo, Farihimazava, Itremo, Soamazaka, near Tsinjoarivo, Vatolampy, Vohisokina. It occurs between 1,000m-2,000m asl in tiny strips of vegetation along streams and nearby montane grassland savannah and humid stone walls. It inhabits underground cavities during the dry season, and it can hide in these during fires (Andreone and Vences 2008).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Habits: A terrestrial frog, living in gallery forest along streams, moving into nearby montane grassland savannah in the rains. Threatened by deforestation and (in the 1990s) over-exploitation for the international pet trade.
Calls: Series of short single-click notes.
Breeding takes place in streams, and eggs are laid on the ground (Andreone and Vences 2008).
Trends and Threats
Critically Endangered: area of occupancy is probably less than 10km2, its distribution is severely fragmented, and the extent of its habitat is probably declining; and also because of a drastic population decline, estimated to be more than 80% over the last three generations (estimated at 15 years), inferred from observed shrinkage in distribution and declines in the number of mature individuals, anecdotal information on habitat destruction and/or degradation, and from levels of exploitation inferred from the numbers of animals in international trade. It is not known from any protected areas, making protection of the remaining habitat of this species a top priority. A moratorium on the export of Mantella cowani was implemented in 2003 (through the application of a zero export quota on any Appendix II species until populations recover) (Andreone and Vences 2008).
Relation to Humans
International pet trade has resulted in a dramatic population decline.
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Drainage of habitat
Subtle changes to necessary specialized habitat
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)
Taken with permission from Glaw and Vences (2007).
Andreone, F. and Vences, M. (2008). Mantella cowanii. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 22 April 2009.
Glaw, F., and Vences, M. (2007). Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Third Edition. Vences and Glaw Verlag, Köln.
Written by F. Andreone, J.E. Randrianirina, F.Glaw and M. Vences (f.andreone AT libero.it), Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino (FA), and Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza (JER)
First submitted 2000-12-13
Edited by Henry Zhu (2009-05-06)
Feedback or comments about this page.
Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on
amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2015. Berkeley, California:
(Accessed: Apr 27, 2015).
AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.