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Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xenopus

Had to go backwards for this one.  X is for Xenophus laevis, the African Clawed Frog. They are native to southern Africa though they can now be found across the continent and have been introduced to parts of the United States, Chile, and the United Kingdom.  As you can guess by their name, they possess a unique feature on their front feet- claws.  This is not found in any other frog species.  They use these claws while hunting- they are carnivorous.  Once they catch their prey they use their claws to shove the prey into their mouths.


The frog has developed to be a bottom-dweller.  This provides them more protection from predators since they are not at the surface all the time.  In fact, they very rarely come to the surface.  It can swim surprisingly fast, up, down, left, right, front, back.  If you can think of a direction- it can swim it.

Like all other amphibians the African clawed frog has external fertilization, meaning both sexes expel their gametes out into the water and with a hope and a prayer they meet and fertilize.  Females can produce up to 2,000 eggs at a time.  Their tadpoles live a life just like any other tadpole- eating and avoiding predators.  They reach maturity at 10-12 months and can live up to 15 years in the wild.  Very impressive for a small amphibian.


African clawed frogs are of least concern on the IUCN Red List.  Really the only threat facing them are predators, a natural threat.  They are a very adaptable species and are invasive in many areas they now reside in.  They do, however, have a possible threat to other amphibian species around the world- Chytridiomycosis or Chytrid fungus.  This is a fungus that affects amphibians, causing population declines around the globe.  It was detected in museum specimens of this species way back in 1938.  So, it is possible that the trade in these frogs led to the spread of the disease around the globe.  And, of course, they do not seem to be affected by it either.