African Clawed Frog, Xenopus laevis

The African clawed frog is found in its natural habitat throughout Africa. However, it has been introduced in North America, South America and Europe. This species is fully aquatic and is found abundantly in ponds, lakes, and rivers.

The body color of the African clawed frog is a greenish grey and the skin is smooth and slippery with blotches of grey or brown on the back. The belly is a cream colored with a yellow tint. The average length of this species is five inches. The body and head are flattened and the African clawed frog has no tongue or external ears.

The male African clawed frog is usually smaller than the female. The average life span of this species is ten years but some have been recorded to live up to 25 years. Once a year this species will shed its skin then consume it.

The feet have three toes and are fully webbed, and the hands are used for feeding. The frog will suck its prey into the mouth and use the hands to shove it in further. The clawed feet are also used for tearing apart the prey.

It is a scavenger, so the African clawed frog will feed on just about anything alive, dead or dying, as well as organic waste.

The mating call of the male sounds similar to a cricket. The female will answer back in a soft clicking sound. The eggs are located in bulges above the hind legs of the female. The male will grab the female above the thighs and squeeze the female until the eggs are released. Once outside the body, the male will fertilize them. Hundreds of eggs will be laid and will adhere to anything close. The African frog may also eat the eggs occasionally.

The eggs and embryos of the African clawed frog are used in research for biology and medical purposes. This species was the first vertebrate to be cloned. It is also used for pregnancy tests in human females. A hormone found in the urine of pregnant women is injected into both male and female African clawed frogs to induce breeding behavior of specimens in captivity.

It is illegal to own, transport, or sell the African clawed frog without a permit in many states of the US. It is listed as least concern on the IUCN list.

Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Chordata
Class:     Amphibia
Order:     Anura
Family:     Pipidae

Image Caption: African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. Credit: Brian Gratwicke/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)