Family Arthroleptidae

Leptopelis Günther, 1859

tree frogs, forest treefrogs, boompaddas (A)

By J. Theron and L.R. Minter

Currently accepted name: Leptopelis sp.
Red listing status:


The genus name is derived from the Greek: lepto = slender, narrow; pélis = pelvis. The members of this genus are medium to large frogs with a robust body and relatively slender limbs. They have broad heads with large, bulging eyes that tend to face forward, and vertical pupils. Adhesive digital discs are well developed (in arboreal species) or absent. Webbing between the fingers is poorly developed or absent, while the toes are moderately to weakly webbed. Inner metatarsal tubercles are well developed in the burrowing species. The vocal sac in males is internal and not visible externally (Poynton and Broadley 1987; Jacobsen 1989; Passmore and Carruthers 1995).


This genus comprises c.47 species, distributed throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa. Of the four species recorded from the atlas region, two are endemic, one has a wider distribution, and one, L. bocagei, is known from only a single historical record (Letsitele 2330CD). L. bocagei is widely distributed north of the atlas region, and Jacobsen (1989) suggested that the record represents a translocation. No species account or distribution map is presented for this species.


Leptopelis species inhabit a wide spectrum of vegetation types, from dense tropical and subtropical forest, through savanna and open woodland, to grassland. They bury their eggs in the soil beneath leaf litter on the banks of shallow pans, pools, streams and swamps.

Life history

The common name “tree frogs” is not entirely appropriate, as some species, such as L. bocagei and L. xenodactylus, are adapted to burrowing and are essentially ground-dwelling frogs (Poynton and Broadley 1987; Lambiris 1989a; Passmore and Carruthers 1995). The biology of many Leptopelis species is poorly known.

The males usually call from elevated positions in trees, bushes, reeds, or grass tufts (Poynton and Broadley 1987). Large, yolky eggs are laid in the soil near water, and the tadpoles find their way to the water unassisted and develop in the usual manner. The tadpoles are large, sluggish and long tailed (Poynton and Broadley 1987; Lambiris 1989a).


Two of the three species in the atlas region are endemic and have restricted ranges. L. xenodactylus, a grassland species, is Endangered (Harrison et al. 2001; this publication).


  • Web:
    FrogMAP. 2023. Leptopelis Günther, 1859. Animal Demography Unit. Accessed from; on 2023-12-01 07:12:48.
  • Book:
    Minter L.R., Burger M., Harrison J.A., Braack H.H., Bishop P.J. & Kloepfer D. (eds). 2004. Atlas and Red Data book of the frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. SI/MAB Series no. 9. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Published by the Smithsonian Institution and the Avian Demography Unit (now Animal Demography Unit).