Arthroleptis poecilonotus
family: Arthroleptidae

© 2016 Daniel Portik (1 of 12)

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


Diagnosed as a small ranid-like frog; males with lengthened third finger; no webbing; dark hour-glass pattern on back (in most specimens).

A small compact frog with a blunt snout. The head width almost equals a third of the SVL. Males measure 19–27 mm and weigh 0.60–1.05 g. SVL of one female measured was 31 mm (weight: 2.69 g). Frétey and Dewynter (1998) cite a gravid female of 34 mm SVL from Gabon. Males have a single subgular vocal sac. The tympanum is clearly visible, slightly concave and large; it measures 0.9 of the eye diameter. Skin almost smooth or granular with numerous small round warts. Long forelegs. Neither the fingers nor the toes are webbed. Males have extremely long third fingers. As a result, the hand is almost as long as the thigh or shank. The inner metatarsal tubercle reaches 0.7 of the length of the shortest toe. Tips of fingers and toes are not enlarged.

Voucher specimens: SMNS 8961 1–3.
I assume that the color patterns I am going to describe represent various types of one and the same species. However, it cannot be excluded that several species of Arthroleptis occur at Comoé National Park. The basic color of the back varies from light beige to light or intensive orange to copper-red. Whereas the snout tip is always light colored, showing the basic color of the back, a dark figure usually starts between the eyes and stretches to the vent area. This marking most frequently resembles an hour-glass. Breeding males may be very dark or even black. In this case, the dorsal marking is almost invisible. We once found a female whose rectangular dorsal dark marking was interrupted by a light vertebral line. The backs of other specimens were plain copper-red, and this color also extended to the dorsal areas of the flanks and to the dorsal parts of the extremities. Only a short streak behind the tympanum and the upper part of the latter were black. A few black spots are also present on the flanks. In all other animals, the black dorsal markings were clearly separated from the color of both the lateral part of head and the flanks. The latter are dark gray to black. The hind legs are of the same color, lightened only by a few reddish spots. The forelegs share the basic coloration of the back with several black spots and strokes. At the border, from the flanks to the venter, the dark marking gradually fragments, and some white spots produce a mottled pattern. The belly is white to gray. The inguinal area is often yellow. Some white spots are present on the dark lower lip. The throat of males is dark violet. The iris is mottled in gold and black. Loveridge (1955a) describes specimens from the Ivory Coast showing hour-glass markings, vertebral lines and bands. The dark markings fade slightly on animals preserved in alcohol. The male throat turns dark gray,and the venter becomes gray.

The high-pitched warbling call lasts 0.77–0.90 sec. It consists of 5–8 notes comprising many short pulses. Each of these notes last 0.04–0.12 sec, and their length increases according to that of the call. The frequency of the advertisement call ranges from 3.5–5.8 kHz. For humans, the call strongly resembles those of some crickets and that of Phrynobatrachus calcaratus. Calls of the genus Arthroleptis have rarely been published.

The call which Schiøtz (1964c) assigns to Arthroleptis sp. does not correspond to the calls uttered by the frogs at Comoé National Park. In 1966, he published a call labeled Arthroleptis taeniatus. The latter species is supposed to be a synonym of A. poecilonotus (Perret 1991b). However, the sonogram clearly differs from the calls of the Comoé National Park frogs.

A clutch consists of large eggs rich in yolk which are laid in small cavities in the soil. According to Barbault and Trefaut Rodriguez (1979a) and Barbault (1984), females produce 2–3 clutches comprising 10–30 eggs each (x = 21; s.d. + 8). The egg diameter is 2.9 mm.

Development takes place entirely within the egg and fully developed young frogs finally hatch out. The SVL of frogs measured in mid-to-late July ranged from 8 to 9.5 mm, and a young frog captured in early June measured just 7 mm. Young A. poecilonotus measured 12 and 13 mm and weighed 0.14 and 0.19 g, respectively. Young frogs already show the hour-glass pattern of adult animals.

Lamotte and Perret (1963b) report on clutches they found in manioc and peanut plantations towards the end of the smaller rainy season (June/July). 20–25 eggs measuring 2–6 mm were laid in small cavities. Thirteen days later, pigmented eyes begin to develop on the white embryo, and the extremities gradually develop. After 15–20 days, the jelly capsule is broken through by vigorous movements of the head and extremities, and the young frogs hatch. They still have tiny tails, and the remaining yolk can be seen through the transparent belly. Their snouts are more rounded than in adult frogs. In addition, their skeleton has not yet ossified completely. Direct development has also been observed in A. crusculum (Guibé and Lamotte 1958c).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, Uganda

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The exact range of this species cannot be given, as the identification of frogs belonging to this genus is extremely difficult currently. According to Frost (1985), this species ranges from southern Sudan westward to Guinea, and to R.D. Congo and Uganda in the south. I present here an uncritical overview of those countries from where "S. poecilonotus" has been recorded. However, I have not considered those reports which obviously refer to completely different species: Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Fernando Póo, Congo, R.D. Congo, Gabon, ?Sudan, ?Uganda, ?Tanzania (Peters 1863, Boulenger 1906, Nieden 1908, 1910a, b, Chabanaud 1919b, Noble 1924, Barbour & Loveridge 1930, Loveridge ?1930, 1941, 1955a, ?1957, Witte 1934, Parker 1936a, ?c, ?Sanderson 1936, Mertens 1938b, 1939, 1940, 1968, Laurent 1952b, Lamotte & Perret 1963b, Schiøtz 1963, 1966, 1967, Perret 1966, Barbault 1967, 1972, 1974d, 1984, Lamotte 1967b, Vuattoux 1968, Walker 1968, Amiet & Perret 1969, Amiet 1974, 1989, Böhme 1975, 1994c, Barbault and Trefaut Rodriguez 1979a, Joger 1982, Hughes 1988, Böhme & Schneider 1987, Largen and Dowsett-Lemaire 1991, Rödel 1996, Frétey and Dewynter 1998).

At Comoé National Park, the frogs are mainly associated with gallery and island forests, while moist savannas bearing a rich vegetation are also inhabited. In Lamto, according to Lamotte (1967), this species is more common in the savanna. However, this frog is generally considered as a species inhabiting rainforests, swamp forests and gallery forests (e.g. in Noble 1924, Lamotte and Perret 1963b, Schiøtz 1963, Hughes 1988, Böhme 1994c) or degraded forests and clearances (Amiet & Perret 1969). Savanna habitats have been occasionally quoted (Lamotte & Perret 1963b, Walker 1968, Amiet 1975, Hughes 1988). On Mt. Cameroon, the species is reported to occur at elevations of 1000 m above sea level. (Mertens 1939).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The chirping call of the males can be heard after rainfall and in very sultry weather, occasionally even in the daytime (similar observations were made by Amiet and Perret 1969). These frogs are extremely difficult to locate. The best method to trace calling males is by triangulation. They usually use elevated calling sites on branches, in thick bushes or in hollow trees. Nearby frogs usually call alternately. Long pauses may occur between two calls of one male. The calling sites seem to be fairly evenly distributed across the forest floor. At densely populated sites, calling males may be found at intervals of 5–10 m. However, they are usually rather rare, and it requires a lot of time to locate them. The situation is quite different in the rainforest where the same (?) species is found at large numbers on the forest floor. Amiet (1975) also reports that males call, separated from each other by longer distances.

This species is reported to spend the dry season underground (Lamotte 1967b). At Lamto, the frogs mature when they are aged 3–4 months, and they usually live up to six months. Population density is highly variable, depending mainly on the amount and distribution of the precipitation of the previous year. However, in Lamto these frogs occur in high densities. The two generations of a year reproduce from March to June and from August to November (Barbault 1972, 1984; Barbault and Trefaut Rodriguez 1979a).

Because of its short life-span and the 2–3 clutches produced by a single female, this species has been characterized as an "r-strategist" (producing numerous small offspring, so that comparatively little energy is invested in each) by some authors. However, in view of its low reproductive potential, the considerable amount of energy spent on the production of larger eggs that are rich in yolk, and the comparatively large young, this species deserves to be categorized as a "K-strategist".

According to Loveridge (1955a), gravid females are found between March and July. At Lamto, S. poecilonotus is said to feed mainly on ants and termites (Barbault 1974). Most probably, the reports of Parker (1936c) and Sanderson (1936) do not refer to this species or even genus. For example, Sanderson (both authors are reporting on the same frogs) reports that these frogs are also found in lentic water where it breeds, as indicated by swarms of young frogs. In addition, this frog was said, by these authors, to prefer arid habitats. Amiet (1989) describes two males struggling for a calling site.

This account was taken from Rödel, M.-O. (2000), Herpetofauna of West Africa vol. I. Amphibians of the West African Savanna, with kind permission from Edition Chimaira publishers, Frankfurt am Main.
For references in the text, see here


Rödel, M. O. (2000). Herpetofauna of West Africa, Vol. I. Amphibians of the West African Savanna. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, Germany.

Written by M.O. Rödel (roedel AT, University of Wurzburg, Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, Wurzburg, Germany
First submitted 2001-05-08
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2008-01-18)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2008 Arthroleptis poecilonotus <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Oct 26, 2016.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2016. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 26 Oct 2016.

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