Xenopus laevis

Xenopus laevis (Daudin, 1802)

Common Names

African Clawed Frog (English), Upland Clawed Frog (English), Common Clawed Toad (English), Upland Clawed Frog (English), Common Platanna (English), Platanna (English), Common Clawed Frog (English), Clawed Frog (English), African Clawed Toad (English), Common Clawed Frog (English), Clawed Toad (English), Smooth Clawed Frog (English)

Languages: English



X. laevis is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Within its southern distribution, it is a common and widespread species, occurring from sea level to nearly 3000 m in Lesotho. In the west, it is apparently absent in areas of extreme aridity, including much of the Kalahari and Bushmanland in Northern Cape Province. Its distribution extends eastward as far as the Great Escarpment, where it comes into contact with X. muelleri in the low-lying parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Author(s): Measey, G.J.
Rights holder(s): Measey, G.J.


Habitat and Ecology

Prior to the advent of modern agriculture, X. laevis probably occurred in low densities in natural water bodies, such as streams, rivers and their pools. Nowadays, however, the species is also found in a variety of man-made water bodies such as farm dams, ponds, sewage purification works and fish farms. Eutrophic waters seem to produce the highest densities (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Author(s): Measey, G.J.
Rights holder(s): Measey, G.J.


Adults are generalist predators and scavengers, and can hold food items in their toothed mouths while breaking it apart with their claws using an overhead kick (Avila and Frye 1978). These behaviours can be detected by other adults in the vicinity and sometimes lead to a feeding frenzy (Frye and Avila 1979). Most food items for post-metamorphic X. laevis are benthic macro-invertebrates, such as chironomid larvae. However, a wide variety of food sources are used from all microhabitats in water bodies, including carrion and terrestrial food items (Measey 1998a, b). Even the largest animals take very small prey items, such as zooplankton and ostracods . X. laevis plays an important role in the ecology of southern African wetlands because it is widespread and abundant, and it is a voracious predator as well as an important prey item for several mammalian, avian and reptilian predators (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Xenopus laevis tested positive for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Botswana at the Kanye Youth Centre in April 1969 (Weldon 2005). It also tested positive in the South African cities of Zeekoeivlei in 1938, Moordenaarshoek and Harrismith in 1972, Natal in 1973, Rosendal and Touw River in 1974, Phillipi in 1982, Florisbad in 1987, Koffiefontein and Sannaspos in 1991, Mooi River in 1995, Kommissiepoort in 1996, Windsorton Road in 1998, Stellenbosch and Klapmuts in 2001, Strand, Wellington, and Botrivier in 2002 and Kammieskroon in 2004 (Weldon 2005).

Author(s): Bergmann, Travis; Measey, G.J.
Rights holder(s): Bergmann, Travis; Measey, G.J.

Life History


After heavy rains, X. laevis sometimes leave water bodies en masse, and single individuals are also encountered on the surface in damp weather. These appearances may be associated with movement to and from breeding sites (Du Plessis 1966). Breeding begins at the onset of the rains, thus at different times in the summer and winter rainfall areas (Berk 1938; Kalk 1960). Hey (1949) reported that there are  prolonged breeding period throughout the rainy season, and both females and males are able to breed more than once per season (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

McCoid (1985) found that spawning takes place during the night when couples, in inguinal amplexus, swim around the pond depositing single eggs on any hard substrate (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Author(s): Measey, G.J.
Rights holder(s): Measey, G.J.


Wassersug (1996) recorded that larvae hatch within two to three days and, after finishing the yolk supply, begin to feed on algae suspended in the water column. Tadpoles display coordinated schooling behaviour, and maintain their position in the water column by means of a characteristic undulating motion of the tail (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Tinsley et al. (1996) found that the time to metamorphosis varies with temperature and the abundance of food. In optimal conditions, metamorphosis is possible within two months (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Author(s): Measey, G.J.
Rights holder(s): Measey, G.J.


Activity and Special Behaviors

Toward the peak of the dry season, X. laevis will either move from drying water bodies or burrow into the wet mud to aestivate (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Author(s): Measey, G.J.
Rights holder(s): Measey, G.J.


IUCN Red List Category and Justification of Conservation Status

X. laevis does not seem to be threatened in any part of its range. X. laevis is a highly invasive species, as is evidenced by the feral populations that have become established in many parts of the world (Text from Minter et al., 2004, © SI/MAB Biodiversity Program).

Author(s): Measey, G.J.
Rights holder(s): Measey, G.J.


  • Bufo laevis Daudin, 1802 (synonym)
  • Pipa laevis — Merrem, 1820 (synonym)
  • Pipa bufonia Merrem, 1820 (synonym)
  • Engystoma laevis — Fitzinger, 1826 (synonym)
  • Xenopus boiei Wagler, 1827 (synonym)
  • Dactylethra bufonia — Cuvier, 1829 (synonym)
  • Dactylethra laevis — Cuvier, 1829 (synonym)
  • Dactylethra capensis Cuvier, 1830 (synonym)
  • Tremeropugus typicus Smith, 1831 (synonym)
  • Xenopus bojei — Van der Hoeven, 1833 (synonym)
  • Leptopus oxydactylus Mayer, 1835 (synonym)
  • Leptopus boiei Mayer, 1835 (synonym)
  • Pipa africana Mayer, 1835 (synonym)
  • Dactylethera boiei — Tschudi, 1838 (synonym)
  • Dactylethra levis — Duméril and Bibron, 1841 (synonym)
  • Pipa laevis — Duvernoy In Cuvier, 1849 (synonym)
  • Dactylethra delalandii Cuvier, 1849 (synonym)
  • Xenopus (Dactylethra) boiei — Schlegel, 1858 (synonym)
  • Dactylethra laevis — Günther, 1859 (synonym)
  • Xenopus laevis — Steindachner, 1867 (synonym)
  • Dactylethera laevis — Blanford, 1870 (synonym)
  • Xenopus laevis bunyoniensis Loveridge, 1932 (synonym)
  • Xenopus laevis laevis — Parker, 1936 (synonym)
  • Xenopus laevis sudanensis Perret, 1966 (synonym)
  • Xenopus (laevis) bunyoniensis — Tymowska and Fischberg, 1973 (synonym)
  • Xenopus (Xenopus) laevis — Kobel, Barandun, and Thiebaud, 1998 (synonym)
  • Xenopus sudanensis — Jacobsen, 2009 (synonym)


Avila, V. L., & Frye P. G. (1978).  Feeding behaviour of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis Daudin): (Amphibia, Anura, Pipidae): effect of prey type. Journal of Herpetology . 12, 391-396.
Barbour, T., & Loveridge A. (1928).  A comparative study of the herpetological faunae of the Uluguru and Usambara Mountains, Tanganyika Territory with descriptions of new species. Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. L(2), 85-265.
Berk, L. (1938).  Studies in the reproduction of Xenopus laevis. I. The relation of the external environmental factors to the sexual cycle. South African Journal of Medical Sciences. 72-77.
Daudin, F. - M. (1802).  (An. XI). Histoire Naturelle des Rainettes, des Grenouilles et des Crapauds. Quarto version. Paris: Levrault.
Du Plessis, S. S. (1966).  Stimulation of spawning in Xenopus laevis by fowl manure. Nature. 1092.
Hay, D. (1949).  A report on the culture of the South African clawed frog Xenopus laevis (Daudin) at the Jonkershoek Inland Fish Hatchery. . Transactions of the Royal Society, South Africa. 45-54.
Kalk, M. (1960).  Climate and breeding in Xenopus laevis. South African Journal of Science . 271-276.
McCoid, M. J. (1985).  An observation of reproductive behavior in a wild population of African clawed frogs, Xenopus laevis, in California. California Fish and Game. 245-250.
Measey, G. J. (1988).  Terrestrial prey capture in Xenopus laevis. Copeia. 787-791.
Mohneke, M., Onadeko A. B., & Rödel M-O. (2009).  Exploitation of frogs – a review with a focus on West Africa. Salamandra. 45, 193-202.
Wassersug, R. J. (1996).  The biology of Xenopus tadpoles. (TinsleyR C., KobelH R., Ed.).The Biology of Xenopus.. 195–211. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press.
Weldon, C. (2005).  Chytridiomycosis, an emerging infectious disease of amphibians in South Africa. Potchefstroom, South Africa: North-West University.
Weldon, C., Du Preez L. H., Hyatt A. D., & Speare R. (2004).  Origin of the amphibian chytrid fungus. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 10, 2100-2105.
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