Xenopus borealis
family: Pipidae

© 2014 Alberto Sanchez-Vialas (1 of 3)

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Kenya, Tanzania, United Republic of

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
See IUCN account.
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


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Xenopus borealis »

From the Encyclopedia of Life account:


This species is named for the Latin 'borealis' meaning northern.



The hind feet are very large and fully webbed with prominent black claws on the tips of the first four toes (hence the name ‘clawed frog’). They appear to be covered in ‘stitches’ which are sensory organs which can detect movement in the water around them. They are also very smooth and slippery, quite hard to keep hold of, and can scratch hard using their claws (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).



Males are 50 -60 mm, and females are 59 - 80 mm (Harper et al., 2010).


Diagnostic Description

Xenopus borealis is a small clawed frog with olive to brown skin, occasionally with darker mottling. The vent can be bright orange which is concentrated in axilliary areas with a paler vent, all with black splotches to varying degree of intensity. Lateral lines appear as “stitching” all over the body, but obviously in rings around the eyes. Males develop dark nuptial pads on the arms during breeding periods, females have three cloacal lips which become pink and swollen (Text from Harper et al., 2010).



The sub-ocular tentacle of X. borealis is much shorter than ½ the diameter of the eye, while that of X. muelleri is greater than ½ the diameter of the eye (Text from Harper et al., 2010).


Habitat and Ecology

This species is found in permanent ponds within forest or agricultural landscapes. It is also often found in small wells, which it falls into when dispersing. It is distributed at elevations between 600 and 1700 m (Harper et al., 2010).



Diet consists of almost everything in the water, including insects, fish, and tadpoles, including their own species (Text modified from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).


Modes and Mechanisms of Locomotion

Clawed frogs are poor movers on land but they can be found there, during heavy rainstorms, as they seem to flop uncertainly about, or when their pond dries and they move to occupy another. Although not good at moving on land, these frogs are very good at swimming (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).


Activity and Special Behaviors

It is easiest to see them at night shining a torch into the ponds or water-filled ditches where they live. If you startle them, they disappear very quickly into the mud. Sometimes they appear to hang motionless from the surface while at others they are very active eating insects from the water surface or even launching themselves out of the water to snatch a passing insect (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).


Advertisement Call

Males call with a series of trills and clicks. Females probably also vocalize in this species (Text from Harper et al., 2010).



Breeding activity starts with the onset of heavy rains. Males call from within the water (although the calls can be heard sometimes quite loudly but muffled from outside), and appear to be very territorial getting into wrestling matches with other males. Males clasp females in inguinal amplexus, swimming underwater and depositing eggs singly onto vegetation. Tadpoles are suspension feeders which swim in schools hanging in mid-water with just a flicker at the ends of their tails. They resemble catfish with long tentacles projecting from the corners of their wide mouths (Text from Harper et al., 2010).


Tadpole morphology

The tadpoles are almost transparent; they hang in the water with their tails flickering, and filter algae from the water. Two long barbs come from the corners of their mouths giving them the appearance of a catfish, but the eventual growth of legs will betray their amphibious nature (Text modified from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).