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Leptodactylus fuscus (Schneider, 1799)

Rufous frog (EN) | Rugstreep savanne fluitkikker (NL)
Conservation status: Least Concern
Adult size: 48 mm
Diet: Carnivore
Activity: Primarily nocturnal
Lifestyle: Semi-aquatic

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better ~ Albert Einstein

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About

The rufous frog (Leptodactylus fuscus) is a small to moderate-sized amphibian found across a wide range of habitats in Central and South America. It is fairly anthropophillic and likes open habitat and can often be heard in gardens at peoples homes.
Kingdom:
Phylum:
Class:
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Genus:
Species:
Animalia
Chordata
Amphibia
Anura
Leptodactylidae
Leptodactylus
L. fuscus

Size and Appearance:

The rufous frog is characterized by its small to moderate size, typically reaching a maximum length of 48 mm. It features a long head with an elongated snout and a projecting upper lip. The skin is granular on the back, with six skin folds - four dorsally and two dorsolaterally. While the fingers and toes lack webbing and folds, certain females may exhibit a smooth white to yellow mediodorsal band extending from the snout to the anus. Males possess two lateral vocal sacs. Their dorsal coloration ranges from gray to olive green with brown-black spots, accompanied by a distinct supralabial white band encircling the tympanum. Ventral coloration is predominantly white with black spots on the throat.

Habitat and Distribution:

Rufous frogs inhabit a variety of environments across their extensive range, including open country, savannahs, grasslands, marshy areas, degraded forests, and urban habitats. They are found from Panama, throughout South America east of the Andes, to Argentina. This species has adapted to various biomes in Brazil, such as the Amazônia, Caatinga, Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, Pampa, and Pantanal. It is common is most parts of their range but uncommon in Panama.
The rufous frog has a distinctive call that can be heard in many gardens.

Diet:

Rufous frogs are generalist predators and their diet includes a range of small invertebrates typical of their terrestrial and nocturnal lifestyle. They consume mainly insects and other arthropods found within their habitat.

Reproduction and Reproductive Behavior:

Reproduction in rufous frogs is tied to the onset of the rainy season. Male frogs initiate breeding by excavating small burrows near ponds or wetlands. Females deposit their eggs in foam nests within these burrows. When heavy rains flood the burrows, tadpoles emerge and move into adjacent wetlands for further development. This reproductive strategy ensures the survival of offspring in temporary aquatic environments.

Ecosystem role:

As a terrestrial amphibian, the rufous frog serves as a food source for various predators within its ecosystem, including snakes, birds, and mammals. Rufous frogs are carnivores, feeding on a variety of small invertebrates such as insects. By consuming these organisms, they help regulate insect populations, thus indirectly impacting plant health and ecosystem balance. Its presence contributes to the trophic dynamics of local food webs.

Threats and conservation

The rufous frog is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN due to its wide distribution, ability to thrive in various habitats, and presumed large population. However, taxonomic investigations suggest the presence of cryptic species within certain subpopulations, particularly in Bolivia and Colombia. Further research is needed to clarify the taxonomy of this species.

Cultural Significance:

Due to the ability of this species to thrive in human-modified landscapes, it is a common inhabitant of human gardens. As such, the distinctive call of the rufous frog is familiar to a lot of people, even though not many people actually know which species produces the sound that they hear.

Recent studies:

The diet of rufous frogs appears to be more diverse in wild habitat than in urban environments (Santana et al., 2019). Melo-Moreira et al. (2021) measured 51 males and 46 females and found sexual dimorphism in snout shape, size, and nostril placement. This was expected due to the burrowing behavior of the male frogs, but is contrary to what some previous studies found.

References

- e Melo-Moreira, D. D. A., Murta-Fonseca, R. A., Galdino, C. A. B., & Nascimento, L. B. (2021). Does a male nest builder have the same head shape as his mate? Sexual dimorphism in Leptodactylus fuscus (Anura: Leptodactylidae). Zoologischer Anzeiger, 295, 23-33.
- Santana, D. J., Ferreira, V. G., Crestani, G. N., & Neves, M. O. (2019). Diet of the Rufous Frog Leptodactylus fuscus (Anura, Leptodactylidae) from two contrasting environments. Herpetozoa, 32, 1-6.

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