AmphibiaWeb - Brachycephalidae
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Brachycephalidae

76 species in 2 genera

Commonly Called Robber Frogs, Three-Toed Toadlets


Brachycephalus ephippium
Photo by Germano Woehl Jr.
(Click for family gallery)

This family is an assemblage of direct-developing frogs from Brazil and northern Argentina, and is composed of two genera, Brachycephalus and Ischnocnema. The family Brachycephalidae is defined primarily by molecular characters; no unique morphological characters are shared by these genera. Members of this family range in size from 10.2 mm snout-vent length in females of Brachycephalus didactylus to 54 mm in females of Ischnocnema guentheri.

Frogs of the genus Brachycephalus are known as "Saddle-back Toads," due to the presence of bony shields above their vertebrae, or "Pumpkin Toads," from the bright orange coloration of some of the members of this family. At first, they were considered to be Bufonids, but absence of a Bidder's organ (ovarian tissue on the testes, a synapomorphy of Bufonidae) led to their recognition as an independent family. Due to their small size and large genomes (an amphibian characteristic), these frogs have "lost" some of their digits (2 on the hand and 3 or 4 on the feet). These frogs are direct developers with inguinal or axillary amplexus. Brachycephalus ephippium is known to possess tetrodotoxin, a strong toxin also found in newts of the genus Taricha and in puffer fish.

Frogs of the genus Ischnocnema are found throughout the Atlantic Coastal Forest in eastern Brazil, and in the Araucaria forest in extreme southeastern Brazil and northern Argentina.

Written by AmphibiaWeb

Notable Family Characteristics

  • Inhabits leaf litter in tropical rainforests, some are arboreal
  • Direct development
  • Amplexus may either be inguinal or axillary or shifting between the two
  • Generally diurnal
  • Distribution limited to South America
Brachycephalidae Richness map

Cartography Credit: Zoe Yoo, UC Berkeley
Range maps sources: AmphibiaWeb, UC Berkeley, and IUCN RedList

Relevant Reference

Hedges, S. B., Duellman, W. E., and Heinicke, M. P. (2008). New World direct-developing frogs (Anura: Terrarana): Molecular phylogeny, classification, biogeography, and conservation. Zootaxa 1737: 1-182.

Vitt, L. J., and J. P. Caldwell. 2013. Herpetology. An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Fourth Edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Genus Brachycephalus (38 species)
Brachycephalus actaeus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus albolineatus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus alipioi account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus atelopoide no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus auroguttatus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus boticario no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus brunneus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus bufonoides no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus coloratus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus crispus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus curupira no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus darkside account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus didactylus no account photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus ephippium account photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus ferruginus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus fuscolineatus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus garbaenus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus guarani no account photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus hermogenesi account photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus ibitinga no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus izecksohni no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus leopardus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus margaritatus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus mariaeterezae no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus mirissimus account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus nodoterga no account photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus olivaceus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus pernix account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus pitanga account photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus pombali no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus pulex no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus quiririensis no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus rotenbergae no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus sulfuratus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus toby no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus tridactylus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus verrucosus no account no photos no sound/video
Brachycephalus vertebralis no account no photos no sound/video

Genus Ischnocnema (38 species)
Ischnocnema abdita no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema bocaina no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema bolbodactyla no account no photos sound/video
Ischnocnema colibri no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema concolor no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema epipeda no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema erythromera no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema feioi no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema garciai no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema gehrti no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema gualteri no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema guentheri account photos sound/video
Ischnocnema henselii no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema hoehnei no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema holti account photos sound/video
Ischnocnema izecksohni no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema juipoca no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema karst no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema lactea no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema manezinho no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema melanopygia no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema nanahallux no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema nasuta no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema nigriventris no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema octavioi no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema oea no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema paranaensis no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema parnaso no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema parva no account photos sound/video
Ischnocnema penaxavantinho no account photos sound/video
Ischnocnema pusilla no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema randorum no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema sambaqui no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema spanios no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema surda no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema venancioi no account no photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema verrucosa no account photos no sound/video
Ischnocnema vizottoi no account no photos no sound/video


Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: https://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed:

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