Medium-sized species with slender appearance. 22-29 mm. Head and anterior part of dorsum covered by a sharply delimited yellow/green marking, posteriorly either ending semicircularly or prolonged as a pointed triangle to the cloacal region (not corresponding to sexual dimorphism). Flanks and posterior part of dorsum black. Arms and legs usually black, rarely copper brown. Hands and finger tips often with blue spots. No frenal stripe, but single yellowish spots sometimes present under the eyes. Iris black without light pigment. Venter with small blue or greyish spots, throat generally black without pattern. No red, orange or yellow pattern on hindlimbs.
Similar species: M. betsileo, M. viridis and M. expectata differ by having blue spots on the throat, less extended terminal finger disks and usually a light line along the upper lip. Mantella sp. is similar in colouration but lacks extended finger disks and has a frenal stripe.
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Madagascar
Ambavala, Ambodimanga (Mananara), Folohy, Marojejy, Nosy Mangabe, Tsararano. It occurs from sea level to 600m asl in rainforest, bamboo forest, and other types of forest with abundant tree holes (in which it breeds) (Andreone and Vences 2008).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Habits: Adults were found on the forest floor, climbing up to 4 m on trees, and in water-filled tree-holes or bamboo nodes. In these tree-holes up to six (but mostly two) adults were present together. When disturbed they often submerged underwater. Aggressive behaviour was not observed. Height of the tree-holes ranged from 10-350 cm above the forest floor, and tree-hole size was very variable (depth up to 30 cm, diameter 3-12 cm). Calls were heard throughout the day. No individuals were heard or found at night, neither on the ground nor in the tree-holes. Sympatric species found in the same tree-holes were Platypelis grandis, Plethodontohyla notosticta and Anodonthyla boulengeri. Stomachs of dissected specimens contained many small ants and termites, and some flies. Reproduction is unique among Mantella: Rather large white eggs are deposited singly 1-2 cm above the water surface of tree-holes (not protected against daylight). Sometimes eggs dry out with descending water-levels and some eggs disappear. Embryonic development is visible two days after egg-laying. Eggs found underwater on the bottom did not show any development. Eggs were observed in October and March. This fact indicates, as well as the different sizes of tadpoles and juveniles, an extended breeding period. Tree-holes were populated by one tadpole, or by two tadpoles in different developmental stages. The tadpoles have a reduced number of labial denticles and a strong horny beak. They feed on fertilized conspecific eggs or are actively fed by the mother with unfertilized eggs. Occasionally they might eat the eggs of other frog species (especially the treehole-breeding cophylines). In the absence of eggs, tadpoles are omnivorous.
Calls: Series of short double-click notes, similar to species of the M. betsileo group.
Trends and Threats
Near Threatened: extent of occurrence is probably not much greater than 20,000 km2, and the extent and quality of its habitat are probably declining, thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable. This species occurs in several protected areas, and is also maintained and bred in several facilities outside Madagascar (Andreone and Vences 2008).
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Taken with permission from Glaw and Vences (2007).
This species was featured as News of the Week on January 21, 2020:
Parenting is an uncommon strategy among amphibians to raise offspring, and rarely takes the form of intense care compared to other vertebrates. For example, when species diversified and gained new niches to avoid competition for the same resources, maternal provisioning provides evolutionary benefits to surpass the cost of reduced access to nutrients. Fischer et al. 2019 demonstrated that in addition to supplying nutrients to offspring living in small isolated pools of water, maternal provisioning of unfertilized eggs is a way of passing along chemical defenses in some aposematic and poisonous frogs species. This mechanism of toxin transfer convergently evolved in two distant clades of frogs living in the antipodes, the Malagasy Climbing Mantella (Mantella laevigata) and the Ecuadorian Little Devil Poison Frog (Oophaga sylvatica), which diverged roughly 140 million years ago. Further, they showed that the neuronal basis of their maternal behavior relies on similar brain region activities but with distinct activation patterns, suggesting an evolutionary versatility in the molecular mechanisms sustaining maternal provisioning (Written by Alexandre Roland).
Andreone, F. and Glaw, F. (2008). Mantella laevigata. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 21 April 2009.
Glaw, F., and Vences, M. (2007). Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Third Edition. Vences and Glaw Verlag, Köln.
Originally submitted by: Miguel Vences and Frank Glaw (first posted 2000-12-13)
Edited by: Henry Zhu, Ann T. Chang (2020-01-21)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2020 Mantella laevigata: Malagasy Climbing Mantella <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4567> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Aug 11, 2022.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 11 Aug 2022.
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