AmphibiaWeb - Sphaerotheca breviceps


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Sphaerotheca breviceps (Schneider, 1799)
Burrowing frog
family: Dicroglossidae
subfamily: Dicroglossinae
genus: Sphaerotheca
Sphaerotheca breviceps
© 2005 Dr. Peter Janzen (1 of 8)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Least Concern (LC)
National Status None
Regional Status None
conservation needs Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .


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This frog is short, stocky, and toadlike; head broader than long, top flat; first finger longer than second, tips swollen; hind limbs short, tibiotarsal articulation reaching the axilla; toes half to one fourth webbed. Inner metatarsal tubercle long, compressed, flat, shovel-shaped; skin smooth, slightly varicose, with feeble longitudinal dorsal folds; tympanum distinct, as large as eye.

Color: Dorsum olive golden, with a light yellow median line; a well marked large golden ocellus on shoulder on each side, continuing obliquely along flanks. Indistinct yellowish bars on limbs and jaws. Sometimes its dorsum is faintly mottled. Ventrum cream, gular region black in breeding males.

The eyes of juvenile Tomopterna breviceps are surrounded by a dark circle. Its broad head is reddish.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan

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The burrowing frog is distributed throughout India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In Pakistan it is reported from the Himalayan foothills, and extends into the Potwar Tableland. It has spotty distribution in the riparian system of Punjab (Khan 1976). Its colonies have been reported in desolate parts of the Cholistan Desert (Khan 1985a). Around Karachi, it is collected from the Hab and Malir River Valleys (Minton 1962, 1966).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
This burrowing frog inhabits relatively humid parts of Pakistan and is found in abundance along the Himalayan foothills in the northwest. It is essentially nocturnal, emerging at dusk from of its burrow which it excavates in soft sandy soil with the help of its broad shovel-shaped inner metatarsal tubercle. At dusk these frogs swarm fields around Manshera city. It is insectivorous, and is often seen devouring centipedes and millipedes which are common in its habitat.

Breeding season starts with the first showers of summer monsoons, when males gather in the shallow marginal waters of large ponds, spaced well apart from each other. The call is a quickly repeated "Awang, awang, awang" uttered 5 to 7 times in a burst. The same habitat is a potential breeding site for other local amphibians, e.g., Bufo stomaticus, Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis, Holobatrachus tigerinus and Microhyla ornata. Occasionally, a relatively agile male of B. stomaticus or E.cyanophlyctis pairs with a Tomopterna breviceps (regardless of sex) which being docile, offers little or no resistance; the pair soon separates.

Eggs of Tomopterna breviceps are large, enclosed in two envelopes of jelly, and laid in small batches which float and adhere to the grass blades.

Tomopterna breviceps has a remarkable resemblance to the burrowing frogs of the genus Uperodon.

The tadpoles are pinkish brown with dark brown spots. The total length of the tadpole is 34-36 mm, tail 25-26 mm. The tadpoles have stout body, the snout is high broad and rounded. The oral disc is anterior, the fringe of oral papillae does not extend on anterior and posterior labium. The posterior labium double row of papillae. Labial tooth row formula is 2(2)/3. The beak is narrow and finely serrated. The lanceolate tail has a dorsal fin broader than the ventral. Body is light brown with large dark brown blotches, ventrum grayish-white with fine brown dots.

The tadpole is found in small ponds and side pools along streams.


For references in the text, see here


Khan, M.S. (1976). '' An annotated checklist and key to the amphibians of Pakistan.'' Biologia , 22:201-210.

Khan, M.S. (1985). ''An interesting collection of amphibians and reptiles from Cholistan Desert, Punjab, Pakistan.'' Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 82, 144-148.

Minton, S.A. (1962). ''An annotated key to the amphibians and reptiles of Sind and Las Bela, West Pakistan.'' American Museum Novitates, 2081, 1-21.

Minton, S.A. (1966). ''A contribution to the herpetology of West Pakistan.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 134(2), 31-184.

Originally submitted by: M. S. Khan (first posted 2002-03-19)
Edited by: VTV, JG, Michelle S. Koo (2022-08-15)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2022 Sphaerotheca breviceps: Burrowing frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 26, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 26 May 2024.

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