Hero Image

Invasive Reptiles and Amphibians

African Clawed Frog

  • Scientific Name

    Xenopus laevis - Visit ITIS for full scientific classification. 

  • Description

    • Can grow 2 to 5 inches long.
    • They have a flattened body, and small, round, lidless eyes sitting on top of it's small head.
    • Smooth skin, usually an olive brown color, with spots.
    • They have 4 long, slim, un-webbed fingers on the front feet.
    • The hind feet have 5 fully webbed toes with the inner three toes ending in a black claw.
    • Xenopus are the only frogs with claws.
    • They have no external ears or tongue.
    • The tadpoles are translucent and have whisker-like tentacles on either side of the mouth.
  • Habitat
    • Extremely adaptable creatures, found in a wide range of habitats, both natural and man-made.
    • Can withstand extreme environmental conditions, including changes in pH, temperature, salt levels, and nutrient levels.
    • They require water for reproduction, but can travel across land to find new habitats.
    • Can go into a type of dormancy, burrowing itself in the sediment to survive dry conditions.
    • Prefers still waters of ponds and slow-flowing streams, but can also live in flowing water. 
  • Invasion Pathways and Distribution
    • Introduced to the U.S. for pet and aquarium trade.
    • Also used in laboratories across the globe.
    • They continue to spread when they escape or are released from research facilities, aquariums, or by pet owners.
    • They can spread naturally by swimming through rivers and streams, traveling over land, and can be carried by water flow during flood events.
    • Native to southern Africa.
    • See USGS for a map of current U.S. distribution. 
  • Life History
    • They can live a long time, with the oldest record being 30 years of age. 
    • Mating can occur anytime of year but peaks in the late spring.
    • Mating occurs in still water and is triggered by a sudden increase in water level and nutrients.
    • Eggs are usually deposited over aquatic plants or rocks.
    • Tadpoles swim with their head down and feed on small animals (plankton) in the water column. 
  • Impacts
    • Consumes almost anything it comes across including invertebrates, fish, and tadpoles.
    • Eats, and outcompetes native frogs.
    • Can spread parasites and diseases, including a potentially fatal skin disease (Chytridiomycosis) to native frog species.
    • Highly adaptable, can tolerate sewage and salty water.
    • Fierce predator with claws, teeth and toxins on skin, able to consume prey larger than themselves.
  • References and Useful Links

    For references by category and links to other useful AIS sites see our Learn More page.