Family Phrynobatrachidae

Phrynobatrachus mababiensis FitzSimons, 1932

Dwarf Puddle Frog, Common Cricket Frog, Mababe Puddle Frog, Dwerg-modderpadda (A)

By A. Channing

Currently accepted name: Phrynobatrachus mababiensis FitzSimons, 1932
Type locality: "Tsotsoroga Pan, Mababe Flats", Rep. South Africa
Red listing status: Least Concern (IUCN, 2014)

Photo by Hankey Andrew, 2011. URL: FrogMAP: 119


Several small Phrynobatrachus species were described from central, eastern and southern Africa, but the taxonomy of this group is still unsettled (Poynton and Broadley 1985b; Lambiris 1989a).

P. mababiensis occurs from the Sahel of East Africa to the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, west to Namibia and southern Angola (Frost 2000). In the atlas region, it is found along the coastal plain from about Qolora Mouth (3228CB) in Eastern Cape Province, northward through KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Kruger National Park and surrounding lowlands, from sea level to 1500 m. Earlier records from the western parts of Limpopo Province indicate that this species may be expected to occur across the province via the Limpopo valley.

The colouration and markings of this species vary considerably, but its small size and characteristic insect-like call make identification relatively easy. The call may at times be confused with that of Hemisus marmoratus, which has a similar pulse rate and emphasized frequency. However, the latter lacks the sporadic clicks that are interspersed in the trill of P. mababiensis.

The atlas data are accurate and reasonably complete.


P. mababiensis inhabits open to wooded savanna and, less frequently, grassland, where summer rainfall is 500–1000 mm p.a. It breeds in shallow stagnant water amongst emergent vegetation on the edges of grassy pans, vleis, marshes, small dams and ponds, and in the backwaters of slow-flowing streams. The species is also found in disturbed habitats near villages and other developments.

Life history

Dry periods are spent in aestivation. During the dry winter at Shipudza (2230DB) in Kruger National Park, adult P. mababiensis were found sheltering under stones (H. Braack pers. comm.).

This species has an extended breeding season that begins after the first spring rains. Males call from the water’s edge, well concealed by vegetation. Choruses are usually strongest at dusk, diminishing after nightfall. In overcast or rainy weather, calling continues throughout the day and night. Aggression between males occurs frequently (Wager 1965).

Eggs are laid in a single flat layer c.5 cm in diameter, that floats on the water. Metamorphosis is completed after about five weeks, at which stage the juvenile froglets are only 6 mm long (Wager 1965; Pienaar et al. 1976).

P. mababiensis feeds mainly on small insects such as midges and mosquitoes (Wager 1965). These frogs occur in large numbers and probably play a significant role in the ecology of their wetland habitat. Stewart (1967) regarded this species as “probably the most abundant amphibian in eastern and central Africa”.

Predators have been recorded in East Africa (Loveridge 1953a) and Zimbabwe (Broadley 1974). These include various snakes such as the Herald Snake Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia and Swamp Viper Atheris nitschei. Other predators include the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis.


This successful and widespread species is not in need of special conservation measures.

Current distribution map

Undated records;  pre-1996;  1996 to 2002;  2003 to present


  • Web:
    FrogMAP. 2023. Phrynobatrachus mababiensis FitzSimons, 1932. Animal Demography Unit. Accessed from; on 2023-12-01 07:12:43.
  • 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).