AMPHIBIAWEB
Hemisus marmoratus
Shovel-nosed frog, Marbled snout-burrower
family: Hemisotidae

© 2015 Alberto Sanchez-Vialas (1 of 9)

  hear call (764.0K MP3 file)
  hear call (8413.1K WAV file)

[call details here]

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
CITES No CITES Listing
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None

 

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

   

From the Encyclopedia of Life account:

Distribution

H. marmoratus has a wide-ranging inhabitant of the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal, to Ethiopia Somalia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique (Poynton and Broadley, 1985; text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

This species occurs from South Africa all the way to Egypt and West Africa (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).


Authors: Zimkus, Breda; Minter, L.R.
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Morphology

The tongue has two lobes (Measey et al., 2009).


Author: Travis, Bergmann
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Size

Males range in size from 25 to 35 mm; females are larger, ranging from 29 to 55 mm (Harper et al., 2010).


Author: Zimkus, Breda
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Diagnostic Description

This is a medium-sized frog with a small head and distinctly pointed snout. The dorsum is yellowish brown, usually with darker markings and often with a light vertebral stripe. The ventral surface is smooth and pale pink. Males have darkly pigmented throats. The toes are webbed only very slightly at the base (Text from Harper et al., 2010).


Author: Zimkus, Breda
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Habitat and Ecology

This species thrives in semi-arid environments. H. marmoratus is found in savanna habitats but also occurs in forest (Rödel 2000). These burrowing frogs spend the dry season in a torpid state, underground (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

This is primarily a savanna species, but it may be found in grasslands, plantations, agricultural areas and secondary forest, especially in sandy areas. It is found at elevations up to 1850 m (Text from Harper et al., 2010).


Authors: Minter, L.R.; Travis, Bergmann
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Associations

Food includes ants, termites and earthworms (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

At night, especially after rains, they come out of the soil and move around shambas eating small insects which they catch by shooting out their sticky tongue (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).

H. marmoratus feeds mainly on termites and is thought to forage underground (Text from Harper et al., 2010).


Authors: Zimkus, Breda; Minter, L.R.; Travis, Bergmann
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Population Biology

In certain areas, like in the Mwatate or Sagalla valleys this is a very abundant species, but in other areas, at high altitudes or on the steep slopes of the Taita Hills, it is rarely seen (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).


Author: Zimkus, Breda
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Activity and Special Behaviors

This species uses its small pig-like head to burrow head first into the soil in very wet and sandy places near streams and rivers where it spends the day. This is one of the frogs that are commonly unearthed when digging in shambas, especially in sandy soils (Modified from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).

These frogs have a narrow snout from which they ‘shoot’ (different from all other frogs which ‘flip’) a very special small tongue. The tongue has two lobes which surround the ant or termite as soon as it hits it. As termites and ants move around quite fast, the frog is able to adjust its aim to hit its prey. The size of the snout is so small, these frogs can’t eat bigger prey, instead they specialise on termites and ants (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).

This fossorial species is considered to be common, but it is usually only seen during heavy rains when emerging to breed (Harper et al., 2010).


Authors: Zimkus, Breda; Travis, Bergmann
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Metamorphosis

Once the tadpoles hatch they remain in the underground nests where they cling to their mother (Rödel et al. 1995). During the dry season the tadpoles stay in the nest with their development frozen. Once the rains come the tadpoles leave the nest to feed. If the dry season lasts for a longer than two months the mother can carry the tadpoles on her back to the water Rödel et al. 1995; Kaminsky et al. 1999). Hemisus tadpoles take less time to reach metamorphosis and are exposed to predators for a shorter period of time. These adaptations are advantageous in an environment where rainfall is unpredictable and highly variable (Modified from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).


Author: Bergmann, Travis
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Advertisement Call

Males call from muddy areas near water. The call is an extended buzzing lasting several seconds and repeated frequently (Text from Harper et al., 2010).


Author: Zimkus, Breda
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Reproduction

The males construct tunnels and in the early spring they begin to call. Once the rains come the tunnels fill with water and the males go to the surface to call. Breeding habitat includes pans, waterholes or artificial impoundments, as well as the isolated pools that form in riverbeds as water levels drop. Once males and females pair the female selects a suitable oviposition site and disappears beneath the surface, male in tow, to excavate a nest. Kaminsky et al. (1999) found that the nests may be constructed in low-lying areas that are subsequently flooded after rain (Modified from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Calls of the pig-nosed frog can be heard in both rainy seasons with males producing a distinctive ‘quwack’ from areas right next to the breeding habitat. The legs of this species are quite short, so they dig them into the sides of the female when holding her. Together, they lay eggs in a clutch in a hole up to 500m from still water (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).

Amplexing pairs burrow into the mud and deposit clutches of 150 – 200 eggs. Females remain with the clutch until hatching. Large tadpoles emerge after eight days and make their way from the burrow to water either by swimming out when the burrow floods, or being carried by the female. Females often dig shallow channels to aid the tadpoles as they move toward water (Text from Harper et al., 2010).


Authors: Zimkus, Breda; Travis, Bergmann
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Tadpole morphology

The tadpoles hatch inside the hole and move across the intermediate ground when the area is fl ooded. The tadpoles have a distinctively large tail fin (Text from Measey et al. 2009, © SANBI).


Author: Travis, Bergmann
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

IUCN Red List Category and Justification of Conservation Status

The species does not appear to be at risk, as much of its habitat is used for game and cattle farming and is relatively undisturbed. It occurs in a number of provincial nature reserves and national parks (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).


Author: Minter, L.R.
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Uses

In Burkino Faso, H. marmoratus is one of many frog species that are traded or consumed as a source of animal protein. Because villagers are employed to catch and prepare frogs, and because they are an "important international trading item" frogs are an integral part of the economy in areas with large frog populations. Aside from their value as an essential food source, they may also be used for cultural reasons and as traditional medicine in areas where Western medicine is not available (Mohneke, 2010).


Author: Manalel, Jasmine
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/