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African Clawed Frog

African Clawed Frogs are native to Sub-Saharan Africa and are generally 5 in and 7 oz as adults. Their name comes from their unique claw-like toe-tips. African Clawed Frogs are fully aquatic, often used for scientific research or kept as pets, and can live up to 15 years in captivity.

Common Name African Clawed Frog
Other NamesXenopus
African Claw-Toed Frog
Scientific NameXenopus laevis
LocationsMost of Sub-saharan Africa
Some parts of Asia
The Americas
Europe
CharacteristicsFully aquatic
Greenish-grey smooth skin
Clawed digits, Webbed hind toes
ColorOlive green, Greenish-grey, albino
OriginSub-Saharan Africa
Conservation StatusLeast Concern
Family Pipidae
Genus Xenopus
SpeciesX. laevis
PoisonousNo
Max Length5 in
Max Weight7 oz
Lifespan15 – 30 years

What do African Clawed Frogs Look Like?

African Clawed Frogs are a fascinating species. They typically have olive green or greenish-grey, slippery skin. There are often albino frogs among this species that appear to nearly be completely white.

These frogs are relatively large, growing to a maximum of 5 inches in length. Female African Clawed Frogs are generally larger than males and can be relatively heavy, with some females weighing around 200 grams (7 oz) upon adulthood. 

African Clawed Frogs have relatively short forelimbs and long hind limbs with long claw-like fingers that give them their name. In addition, the digits of their hind limbs are webbed, which enables them to navigate the water with ease. 

Their bodies are typically flattened with small heads that resemble a wedge. Rather than being on both sides of its head, the African Clawed Frogs eyes are positioned on the top of its head. Its eyes are small and have round black pupils. Its nostrils are also on the top of its head. 

Although its skin is typically olive green or greenish-grey, it can modify its appearance to match its surroundings. In dark areas, it’ll turn a dark shade; meanwhile, in lighter areas, it’ll settle for a light shade so it can blend in.

How to Spot African Clawed Frogs

The African Clawed Frog is native to most parts of Sub-saharan Africa. It typically lives in freshwater ponds, swamps, and marshes in Nigeria, and Sudan, down to South Africa. These species have been introduced artificially to other parts of the world where they generally became invasive.

If you are somewhere you can find African Clawed Frogs in the wild, here are some tips to help you spot them:

  • African Clawed Frogs are fully aquatic amphibians. They spend all of their lives in the water, where they feed, develop and reproduce. Look for them in natural, calm, freshwater areas (not saltwater).
  • African Clawed Frogs are mostly inactive during the day. They spend most of their time in the water, but they may come to the top once in a while to breathe in oxygen with their nostrils. So scan the surface of the water looking for these frogs from time to time.
  • These frogs are nocturnal, meaning that they are primarily active at night. They typically spend their nights searching for food in the water or looking for mates.

Interesting Facts About African Clawed Frogs

  • African Clawed Frogs do not have tongues or teeth.
  • These frogs eat their food by sucking it up or using their forelimbs to shove it into their mouth.
  • African Clawed Frogs use their claws to tear apart the food that they eat for easy ingestion.
  • The claws of African Clawed Frogs are made up of thick cornified skin.
  • There are many albino African Clawed Frogs that are almost entirely white.
  • African Clawed Frogs are known to be able to reverse their sex.
  • African Clawed Frogs are often used for scientific studies because of their acute sensitivity to their aquatic environment.
  • The African Clawed Frog as the first vertebrate ever to be cloned.
  • These frogs produce a fast-action antibiotic on their skin that helps their wounds to heal quickly.
  • Female African Clawed Frogs are usually much larger than the males and can weigh three times more than them.
  • Each female in this species can lay up to 2,000 eggs per reproductive period.
  • African Clawed Frogs do not have ears but hear thanks to vibrations in the water.
  • African Clawed Frogs may die if exposed to heavy vibrations in water.
  • Some African Clawed Frogs can live up to 15 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity.

More About African Clawed Frogs

The African Clawed Frog or Xenopus is widely demanded as a pet. It is adorable and also a graceful swimmer. Researchers and amphibian lovers alike are well acquainted with this species of frogs that can live up to 30 years in captivity. However, they are extremely sensitive to their environment and require very strict upkeep to remain healthy for a long period of time.

Learn more about African Clawed Frogs in these guides on our blog:

Common Questions About African Clawed Frogs

Can you keep African Clawed Frogs as pets? African Clawed Frogs are a popular pets among those who know how to care for them. African Clawed Frogs are not easy to care for as pets because they require very strict environmental conditions or they will die.

Are African Clawed Frogs poisonous? African Clawed Frogs are not poisonous. They do not possess glands that can produce toxins like toads for example.

What do African Clawed Frogs eat? African Clawed Frogs are scavengers and eat all organic matter including decomposing entrails of fish, decaying leaves, plankton, insects, worms, smaller frogs and frog eggs.

What are the predators of the African Clawed Frogs? African Clawed Frogs typically have many underwater predators like fish. They also have land-dwelling predators including several birds of prey, snakes, and even humans who capture them for the pet trade.

Why do African Clawed Frogs get bloated? African Clawed Frogs typically become swollen or bloated due to poor environmental conditions. This is common in pet African Clawed Frogs that are kept in inappropriate conditions and can lead to death.

How many babies do African Clawed Frogs have? Female African Clawed Frogs usually lay between 500 to 2,000 eggs at once. These eggs usually take about a week to transform into tadpoles. It then generally takes another 7 more weeks for the tadpoles to develop into tiny froglets.

Are African Clawed Frogs endangered? African Clawed Frogs are not an endangered species. They are listed as “Least Concern” in the IUCN red list of endangered species. In fact, because of their artificial introduction into Western waters, African Clawed Frogs are even an invasive species. 

Sources

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2020. Xenopus laevisThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species2020: e.T110466172A3066881. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T110466172A3066881.en

Nieukoop, P.D and Faber, J. 1994. Normal Table of Xenopus Laevis (Daudin). Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London.