Lysapsus limellum
Uruguay harlequin frog
family: Hylidae
subfamily: Hylinae

© 2007 Víctor Hugo Zaracho (1 of 6)

  hear Fonozoo call

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



View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

Lysapsus limellum is a small Hylid frog with a snout-vent length range of 15 - 24 mm (Kehr and Basso 1990, Garda et al. 2007). Females are significantly larger than males, having snout-vent ranges of 16.2 - 24.8 mm, while the male snout-vent range is 15.3 – 21.0 mm (Garda et al. 2010). The head is as wide as the body (Cope 1862). However, the head is small with large protruding eyes and a pointed snout (Garda and Cannatella 2007, Garda et al. 2010). There is no canthus rostrilis and the nostrils are vertical. The eye is twice the size of the tympanic disc (Cope 1862). It has relatively short forelimbs and long muscular hindlimbs (Garda and Cannatella 2007). All of the digits have a broad palmate appearance (Cope 1862). The humerus is shorter than the lower arm. The hands are short and not webbed (Goldberg and Fabrezi 2008). The base of the phalanges is thick. The smooth palms are not tubercular but have an acute cuneiforme tubercle at the base of finger I. Finger IV is longer than III (Cope 1862). Its hindlimbs have long, completely webbed feet well-suited for swimming (Goldberg and Fabrezi 2008). When appressed, the knee reaches the tympanum. The tibia is more than twice as long as the tarsus (Cope 1862). It has finely granulated skin on both the dorsal and ventral sides of its body (Garda and Cannatella 2007, Garda et al. 2010) except in the middle of the thorax. With the exception of the posterior surface of the tarsus, there are no dermal folds (Cope 1986).

Like most Lysapsus frogs, L. limellum exhibits a “paradoxical” life history, with its tadpoles being significantly larger than its adult frogs. Lysapsus limellum tadpoles can reach up to about 40 mm in total length (body and tail) and 11 mm in body length. Tadpoles have terminal oral discs directed forward. A large portion of the middle of the anterior labia lacks papillae, while the rest of the labia are fringed by one or two rows of papillae. The tadpole’s upper and lower jaws are serrated and 50% keratinized. Their tails are much longer than their body (Kehr and Basso 1990).

Lysapsus limellum is differentiated from L. laevis by the presence of small pointed tubercules on both the ventral and dorsal skin of the body, giving it granulated skin. Without the use of genetic sequencing, L. limellum is only differentiated from L. caraya by its habitat range: while L. limellum is found in the Amazon and Paraná Basins, L. caraya is found in the Araguaia River basin. Lysapsus limellum can be distinguished from all frogs in the genus Pseudis by the presence of inner and outer metatarsal tubercles (small rounded nodules on the hindfoot) rather than only an inner metatarsal tubercle (Garda et al. 2010).

In life, L. limellum shows a variety of colors from pale green to a dark brown-green. While individual frogs may show patterns of spots or stripes, there is no species-specific pattern common to all L. limellum frogs (Garda et al. 2010). The eyes are golden (Kehr and Basso 1990).

Cope (1862) described the species, presumable in preservative, as having a dark reddish brown coloration with a dark spot on the back of the head. There were two sets of narrow yellowish lines along the side of the frog, one starting at the eye and the other starting at the tympanum. An additional light-colored line connected the corner of the mouth to the eye. There were broad transverse bands across the femur (2) and tibia (3). There was an additional broad brown band extending from the back of the knee to the cloacal region. The ventrum is rust colored and there are small brown spots on the lower labial area.

The tadpoles are green in life and a greyish brown with spots in preservative. Tails in older tadpoles have a distinctive black tip, which may confuse predators and encourage them to attack the tail rather than the body (Kehr and Basso 1990).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
Lysapsus limellum is found in the Paraná River and Amazon River Basins, specifically in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay (Gallardo 1961) and Uruguay (Lavilla et al. 2004). It is typically pond-dwelling and widely distributed, with populations most often found in areas that are either near or in savannas or along large rivers (da Silva and Bates 2002). These areas all have high availability of water and low to no tree cover, prompting speculation that L. limellum prefers ponds in open floodplains. Within bodies of water, it is known to prefer areas of mostly open water, with floating vegetation rather than rooted aquatic vegetation. It is distributed across a wide area and so can be found at a wide range of altitudes, but is never found above 800 m above sea level (Garda et al. 2007).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Lysapsus limellum courts and breeds continuously throughout the year rather than having a breeding season (Prado and Uetanabaro 2000). Males sit atop floating vegetation while calling to females (Hödl 1977). They call during both the day and night, but are more active and call less during the day while at night they are stationary and call more. Males exhibit two known calls. The first, likely an advertisement call, is 0.12 to 0.34 seconds long and composed of 6 - 12 pulses between 3703 to 5599 Hz. The second is likely a social call, composed of two notes, which has been quantified in other species of Lysapsus but not in L. limellum (Santana et al. 2013).

They lay clutches of 10 - 182 eggs (Garda et al. 2007).

The black tails tips in older tadpoles may confuse predators and encourage them to attack the tail rather than the body. Tadpoles live in midwater within ponds, staying within patches of aquatic vegetation. They are preyed upon by aquatic insects (Kehr and Basso 1990).

Lysapsus limellum is a generalist forager, feeding on dipterans, odonates, and mites. It is currently unknown whether it is an active, passive, or intermediate forager, or what time of the day most foraging occurs. As noted above it is most active during the day, and has been observed jumping on the water surface and then diving underwater to avoid threats. They are preyed upon by fish and large invertebrates (Garda et al. 2007).

Trends and Threats
Because L. limellum is widely distributed and has large populations in the areas where it is found, it is not considered a threatened species (Prado and Uetanabaro 2000, Garda et al. 2010). Currently there are no known threats (Lavilla et al. 2004).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss

The species authority is: Cope, E. D. (1862). “On some new and little known American Anura.” Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 14, 151–159.

Based on Parsimonious and Maximum Likelihood analyses along with Baysian Inference of 2377 base pairs of combined 12S and 16S rRNA, L. limellum is sister to L. caraya. The clade of consisting of L. limellum and L. caraya is sister to L. laevis. The genus Lysapsus as a whole is sister to Pseudis (excepting Pseudis minuta and P. cardosoi) (Garda and Cannatella 2007, Aguiar Jr. et al. 2007). Lysapsus and Pseudis make up the Pseudae group, a rankless clade within the family Hylidae (Garda and Canatella 2007).

Two subspecies of L. limellum, L. limellum limellum and L. limellum bolivianus sensu, were reported by Gallardo in 1961 and are generally accepted (Gallardo 1961, Garda and Cannatella 2007).

Lysapsus limellum is incorrectly referred to in some literature as Lysapsis limellus due to a mis-citation of the original species account from Cope (1862). It is also referred to in some literature as Pseudis limellum due to controversy over the phylogeny of the Pseudae group (Garda et al. 2007).


Aguiar Jr., O., Bacci Jr, M., Lima, A.P., Rossa-Feres D.C., Haddad, C.F.B., Recco-Pimentel, S.M. (2007). ''Phylogenetic relationships of Pseudis and Lysapsus (Anura, Hylidae, Hylinae) inferred from mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences.'' Cladistics, 23(5), 455-463.

Cope, E. D. (1862). ''On some new and little known American anura.'' Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 14, 151-159.

Gallardo, J.M. (1961). ''On the species of Pseudidae (Amphibia, Anura).'' Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 125, 111-134.

Garda, A.A., Cannatella D.C. (2007). ''Phylogeny and biogeography of paradoxical frogs (Anura, Hylidae, Pseudae) inferred from 12S and 16S mitochondrial DNA.'' Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 44, 104-114.

Garda, A.A., Costa, G.C., Franca F.G.R., Mesquita, D.O. (2007). ''Ecology of Lysapsus limellum in the Brazilian Amazon river basin.'' Herpetological Journal, 17(3), 141-148.

Garda, A.A., Santana, D.J., Sao-Pedro V.A. (2010). ''Taxonomic characterization of Paradoxical frogs (Anura, Hylidae, Pseudae): geographic distribution, external morphology, and morphometry.'' Zootaxa, 2666, 1-28.

Goldberg, J., Fabrezi, M. (2008). ''Development and variation of the anuran webbed feet (Amphibia, Anura).'' Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society, 152(1), 39-58.

Hödl, W. (1977). ''Call differences and calling site segregation in anuran species from central Amazonia floating meadows.'' Oecologia , 28, 3510363.

Kehr, A.I., Basso, N.G. (1990). ''Description of the tadpole of Lysapsus limellus (Anura: Pseudidae) and some considerations on its biology.'' Copeia, 1990(2), 573-575.

Lavilla, E., Reichle, S., Lajmanovich, R., Faivovich, J. (2004). Lysapsus limellum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T55764A11362085. Downloaded on 19 June 2018.

Prado, C.P.A., Uetanabaro, M. (2000). ''Reproductive biology of Lysapsus limellus Cope, 1862 (Anura, Pseudidae) in the Pantanal, Brazil.'' Zoocriaderos, 3(1), 25-30.

Santana, D.J., Queiroz, S.S., Wanderley, P.S., São-Perdo, V.A., Leite, F.S.F, Garda, A.A. (2013). ''Calls and tadpoles of the species of Lysapsus (Anura, Hylidae, Pseudae).'' Amphibia-Reptilia, 34, 201-215.

Written by Emily Payne (emilymariepayne AT, University of Florida
First submitted 2018-02-24
Edited by Ann T. Chang (2018-06-19)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2018 Lysapsus limellum: Uruguay harlequin frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Mar 20, 2019.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2019. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 20 Mar 2019.

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