The African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis) is a unique amphibian that lives in the waters of Sub-Saharan Africa and has been introduced to other parts of the world.
Its name comes from the three short claws on each of its hind feet, which it uses to tear apart its food.
In this guide, we’ll explore various aspects of this fascinating creature, including its anatomy, behavior, its role in research and as pets.
Anatomy of The African Clawed Frog
African Clawed Frogs are generally greenish-grey in color and have smooth, slippery skin. Their underside is creamy white with a yellow tinge.
They have strong legs for swimming and lunging after food, as well as using the claws on their feet to tear the food apart.
These frogs lack external eardrums but have subcutaneous cartilaginous disks that serve the same function.
Male and Female Differences
There are a few ways to distinguish between male and female African Clawed Frogs.
Males are smaller and slimmer, while females are larger and more rotund.
Males also have black patches on their hands and arms to help them hold onto females during mating, while females have more pronounced cloaca and hip-like bulges above their rear legs where their eggs are internally located.
Behavior of The African Clawed Frog
African Clawed Frogs are scavengers and will eat almost anything living, dying, or dead, as well as any type of organic waste.
They use their sensitive fingers and sense of smell to find food.
Being carnivores, they will consume fish, tadpoles, crustaceans, annelids, arthropods, and more.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
African Clawed Frogs reproduce by fertilizing eggs outside of the female’s body.
Males and females engage in a mating position called inguinal amplexus, where the male clasps the female in front of her back legs and squeezes until eggs come out.
The male then sprays sperm over the eggs to fertilize them. African clawed frogs are highly adaptable and will lay their eggs whenever conditions allow it.
Adaptations for Survival
During times of drought, African Clawed Frogs can burrow themselves into the mud and become dormant for up to a year.
They have been known to live for 15 or more years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity.
Use of African Clawed Frog in Research
African Clawed Frogs have been widely used in scientific research, particularly in the fields of molecular biology, cell biology, toxicology, and neurobiology.
They are often used as a model system for studying various biological processes, such as gene function, DNA replication, and repair.
Their embryos and eggs are also used in experiments due to their ease of manipulation.
African Clawed Frogs as Pets
African Clawed Frogs have been kept as pets and research subjects since the 1950s, and are known for their hardiness and long lifespans.
However, it is important to know the differences between African Clawed Frogs and African Dwarf Frogs since they are often mislabeled in pet stores.
African Clawed Frogs as Pests
Due to their adaptability and voracious appetite, African clawed frogs can become harmful invasive species when introduced to non-native environments.
They have been found in various parts of the world, including the United States, Europe, and Asia.
In some US states, it’s illegal to own, transport, or sell these frogs without a permit.
Role of African Clawed Frogs as A Carrier of Chytrid Fungus
The African Clawed Frogs may be an important vector and the initial source of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a chytrid fungus that has been implicated in the decline of amphibian populations worldwide.
This fungus doesn’t appear to affect the African Clawed Frogs, making it an effective carrier.