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Rhinophrynidae

(see family information on Tree of Life site)
1 species in 1 genus

Commonly Called Burrowing Toads


Rhinophrynus dorsalis
Photo by Paddy Ryan
(Click for family gallery)

The only living representative of this family is Rhinophrynus dorsalis. Also known as the Mexican Burrowing Toad, this species has multiple specializations for its burrowing lifestyle such as a pointed snout for digging into the ground face first, short and strong arms and legs, and a pectoral girdle that overlaps the back of the head. The pointed snout, globular body, and small eyes give it a teardrop appearance. These frogs are specialized for eating ants, and do so with a specialized ant-eater like tongue that is protruded through a narrow opening at the front of the mouth, unlike most frogs which open their mouths and project a tongue. They also lack teeth. They spend most of their lives underground and only come to the surface to mate during the rainy season.

Its closest sister group is Pipidae. In both families, tadpoles lack beaks and denticles and possess paired spiracles (Type I tadpole).

Written by AmphibiaWeb

Notable Family Characteristics

  • Fossorial
  • Habitat typically arid or savanna, tropical or subtropical, non-forested areas with friable soil
  • Small head with small eyes, nostrils oriented towards top of head, and pointed snout
  • Some morphological characters include: long tongue specialized for feeding on ants; keratinized tubercles on metatarsus used in digging; pectoral girdle that overlaps the back of the head
  • Feeds on ants and termites
  • Eggs laid in ephemeral water after heavy rains and breeding, which hatch into tadpoles (Type I)
  • Distribution limited to Central America, mainly along the coasts of Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Relevant Reference

Cannatella, David. 2008. Rhinophrynidae. Version 25 November 2008. http://tolweb.org/Rhinophrynidae/16982/2008.11.25 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

Lannoo, M., eds. 2005. Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, UC Press, Regents of the University of California.

Genus Rhinophrynus (1 species)
Rhinophrynus dorsalis AmphibiaWeb account 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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