AmphibiaWeb - Hyperoliidae
AMPHIBIAWEB

Hyperoliidae

232 species in 18 genera

Commonly Called African Reed Frogs, Running Frogs


Hyperolius argus
Photo by Robert C. Drewes

Afrixalus quadrivittatus
Photo by David Blackburn
(Click for family gallery)

The family Hyperoliidae consists of over 200 species. The diversity of hyperoliids is restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and several islands. One genus, Heterixalus, is endemic to Madagascar; Tachycnemis is found only in the Seychelles Islands. One of the most basal genera, Kassina (running frogs), is terrestrial, but most remaining genera are arboreal (the vernacular name of the family refers to the sedge and bush frogs). Tadpoles typically inhabit ponds, or possibly slow-moving parts of streams, and usually have large tailfins. Many species exhibit bright colors and striking patterns, which are sexually dimorphic in some species. One example is Hyperolius argus, which has been used to study the effects of estrogen-like compounds on development of reproductive organs and external secondary sex features. Males of nearly all species have a prominent gular pad and compete over calling sites. Acanthixalus may communicate via pheromones rather than typical advertisement calls.

Taxonomy is still unsettled for some groups within Hyperoliidae, particularly the following:

The Hyperolius nasutus group, consisting of H. nasutus, H. acuticeps, H. adspersus, H. igbettensis, H. benguellensis, and possibly H. lamottei and H. viridis. Both species delimitation and nomenclature are under debate. For a brief discussion, see the account for H. acuticeps.

The Hyperolius viridiflavus superspecies, where it is generally accepted that the group consists of several biological species, but where the species delimitation has not been settled. The superspecies is here treated as an entity under the name H. viridiflavus, and the forms which are regarded by some as full species are treated also under their respective names: H. angolensis, H. glandicolor, H. marginatus, H. mariae, H. marmoratus, H. nitidulus, H. pyrrhodichtyon, H. reesi, H. rhodesianus, H. sheldricki, H. swynnertoni, and H. viridiflavus.

The Afrixalus fulvovittatus complex, which probably consists of several cryptic species. In West Africa, the restricted western farmbush form A. fulvovittatus and the widespread savanna form A. vittiger are reasonably well separated. From Cameroun eastwards the taxonomy is unclear, with the names A. vittiger, A. quadrivittatus, and A. brevipalmatus used in recent literature.

The "Eastern Dwarf" Afrixalus are a bewildering group of small, savanna-living forms. The taxonomy used here follows the latest revision, that of Pickersgill (2007). This group consists of Afrixalus aureus, A. crotalus, A. delicatus, A. knysnae, A. morerei, A. septentrionalis, A. spinifrons, and A. stuhlmanni. (account by Arne Schiøtz)

News Highlight:

July 22,2019: Despite the theory that sexually dimorphic traits under strong sexual selection lead to rapid diversification, phylogenetic studies testing for correlations between sexual dichromatism (sexual differences based on coloration and pattern) and diversification have had mixed results. Although sexual dichromatism is rare in most frogs, it is common in the species-rich African reed frogs (Family Hyperoliidae) with females being more strikingly ornate than males. Portik et al. (2019) examined the group to better understand the evolutionary origins of sexual dichromatism and how it relates to their diversification. Sexual dichromatism evolved once followed by multiple reversals to monochromatism. Clades displaying dichromatism had about double the rates of diversification of monochromatic clades. African reed frogs are a promising group for exploring the role of natural and sexual selection on the evolution of sexual dichromatism. (AChang)

Written by AmphibiaWeb

Notable Family Characteristics

  • Arboreal primarily, some terrestrial
  • A range of habitats, forests and open savanna
  • Diurnal in most
  • Sexual dimorphism in some species, including striking dichromatism
  • Morphological characters for this group are: 1) presence of unique gular gland; 2) nuptial pads absent; 3) posterolateral process of hyoid absent; 4) sternum cartilaginous; 5) dentomentalis muscle present; 6) pupil vertical in most.
  • Distribution limited to sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and several islands, including the Seychelles
Hyperoliidae Richness map

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

Relevant Reference

Schiøtz, A. (1999). Treefrogs of Africa. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main.

Pough, F. H., R. M. Andrews, M. L. Crump, A. H. Savitzky, K. D. Wells, and M. C. Brandley. 2015. Herpetology. Fourth Edition. Massachusetts: Sinauer.

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

Genus Acanthixalus (2 species)
Acanthixalus sonjae account no photos no sound/video
Acanthixalus spinosus account photos no sound/video

Genus Afrixalus (31 species)
Afrixalus aureus account photos no sound/video
Afrixalus clarkei account photos no sound/video
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Afrixalus dorsalis account photos sound/video
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Afrixalus lindholmi no account no photos no sound/video
Afrixalus morerei account photos no sound/video
Afrixalus nigeriensis account photos no sound/video
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Afrixalus paradorsalis account photos no sound/video
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Afrixalus uluguruensis account photos no sound/video
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Afrixalus vibekensis account photos no sound/video
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Genus Alexteroon (3 species)
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Genus Arlequinus (1 species)
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Genus Callixalus (1 species)
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Genus Chrysobatrachus (1 species)
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Genus Congolius (1 species)
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Genus Cryptothylax (2 species)
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Genus Heterixalus (11 species)
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Genus Hyperolius (152 species)
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Hyperolius igbettensis no account no photos no sound/video
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Hyperolius pyrrhodictyon no account no photos no sound/video
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Hyperolius rhodesianus no account no photos no sound/video
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Hyperolius ruvuensis account no photos no sound/video
Hyperolius rwandae no account no photos no sound/video
Hyperolius sankuruensis account no photos no sound/video
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Hyperolius soror account no photos no sound/video
Hyperolius spatzi no account photos no sound/video
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Hyperolius stenodactylus no account no photos no sound/video
Hyperolius stictus no account no photos no sound/video
Hyperolius substriatus no account photos no sound/video
Hyperolius swynnertoni no account no photos no sound/video
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Genus Kassina (15 species)
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Kassina wazae account no photos no sound/video

Genus Kassinula (1 species)
Kassinula wittei account photos no sound/video

Genus Morerella (1 species)
Morerella cyanophthalma no account no photos no sound/video

Genus Opisthothylax (1 species)
Opisthothylax immaculatus account photos no sound/video

Genus Paracassina (2 species)
Paracassina kounhiensis account photos no sound/video
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Genus Phlyctimantis (5 species)
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Genus Semnodactylus (1 species)
Semnodactylus wealii account photos no sound/video

Genus Tachycnemis (1 species)
Tachycnemis seychellensis account photos no sound/video


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