Family Microhylidae

Phrynomantis Peters, 1867

rubber frogs, rubberpaddas (A), gifpaddas (A), gomlastiekpaddas (A)

By L.R. Minter and L.H. du Preez

Currently accepted name: Phrynomantis sp.
Red listing status:


The generic name is derived from the Greek: phryne = toad; mantis = leaf (foliage). These frogs are of moderate size with elongated, flattened bodies and a smooth skin. The bright red, orange, pink or cream markings on a black or dark brown background are aposematic. The skins of these frogs contain cardiotoxins. The eyes are small with a sub-circular pupil. The head is mobile and can be moved to some extent from side to side. The tips of the digits are dilated to form truncated discs (Poynton 1964; Wager 1986; Passmore and Carruthers 1995).


The genus Phrynomantis is distributed from West Africa southwards through East Africa to northeastern South Africa and Swaziland. Its range extends westward through Botswana and Namibia to southern Angola. Two of the four known species, P. annectens and P. bifasciatus, occur in the atlas region. The former has a peripheral distribution along the Namibian border of the Northern Cape Province, while the latter occupies a much larger area in the northeastern part of the atlas region (Poynton and Broadley 1985a; Rödel 2000; Channing 2001).


Phrynomantis species are found mainly in open to wooded savanna although, in West Africa, P. microps is sometimes found on the edges of gallery forest (Rödel 2000). P. annectens is a desert-adapted species found in rocky areas in the Succulent Karoo and Nama Karoo biomes.

Breeding takes place primarily in temporary water bodies, ranging in size from the flooded hoofprints of cattle and small rainwater pools, to large shallow pans and dams.

Life history

The members of this genus are not truly arboreal, as is suggested by the genus name, and mostly lead a terrestrial existence. However, during aestivation, some species take shelter in tree holes, under loose bark, or in the buds and treetops of palms (Rödel 2000).

Breeding begins in summer after the first rains. Eggs are deposited in shallow water, sometimes in a single mass of up to 1500 eggs, or in several smaller masses at some distance from each another (Rödel 2000).

The tadpoles have high fins and resemble small fish. They are nektonic filter-feeders and have a characteristic V-shaped mouth that lacks keratinized mouthparts.

Phrynomantis adults are reported to feed primarily on ants, but they also eat termites and other insects (Vuattoux 1968; Barbault 1974a,b; Lamotte 1983; Hermann 1989; Lambiris 1989a; Rödel 2000).


The Phrynomantis species that are present in the atlas region are relatively common throughout their ranges and occur in a number of national parks and provincial nature reserves. A large proportion of their natural habitat is used for game or livestock farming rather than the cultivation of crops. The conservation status of these species is therefore relatively secure.


  • Web:
    FrogMAP. 2023. Phrynomantis Peters, 1867. Animal Demography Unit. Accessed from; on 2023-12-01 08:12:24.
  • 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).