Banded Rubber Frog (Phrynomantis bifasciatus)

View the above photo record (by Nick Evans) in FrogMAP here.

Find the Southern Banded Rubber Frog in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Microhylidae

BANDED RUBBER FROG – Phrynomantis bifasciatus

Smith, 1847

Identification

Adult

Size: Females up to 65mm long. Males are slightly smaller

Phrynomantis bifasciatus is a distinctive and easily recognised species.

Phrynomantis bifasciatus – Near Hoedspruit, Limpopo
Photo by Allison Sharp

The body of Phrynomantis bifasciatus is somewhat elongate and flattened. The neck is relatively long and the head is narrow with a blunt snout.

Fore and hind legs are long and slender. The fingers and toes possess small, slightly expanded terminal discs. Webbing on the hands and feet is almost absent.

The skin is shiny and smooth and has a rubbery appearance. The colouration above is black, often with a dark golden sheen, and with broad bright red to cream bands and blotches. There are two widely spaced, parallel bands that run from the snout, over the eyes and down to the flanks. Another red band is present on the lower back. The sides and legs show smaller red to cream blotches.

Undersides are dark grey-black with white spots and blotches.

The eyes are black with dark bronzy mottling and the pupils are roughly circular.

The sexes are closely similar but males have darker throats.

Tadpole:

Size: length up to 37mm.

The tadpoles have a minnow-like appearance. The head is broad and flattened and the eyes are located laterally. The tail extends past the fins and tapers to a thin pointed tip.

Phrynomantis bifasciatus – Tadpole
Photo by Timo Paasikunas

Habitat

The Banded Rubber Frog inhabits a variety of bushveld vegetation types in the Savanna Biome, at altitudes of 50–1450 m. It appears to be adapted to living in hot, semi-arid environments. Breeding takes place in temporary pans and pools, flooded grassland and small, shallow dams (Wager 1965; Jacobsen 1989; Lambiris 1989a).

Breeding habitat – Bonamanzi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

This frog seldom jumps, but walks or runs. When disturbed, it inflates and arches its body, tucking its head in and raising its rump to accentuate the aposematic colours and markings. These frogs may be handled without ill effects, but if unduly alarmed or hurt, they produce copious skin secretions with an unpleasant odour. The secretions are a toxic irritant and lethal to other frogs confined in the same container. They are cardiotoxic, affecting the potassium channels in the membranes of human heart cells, and cause cell death within a short time (Van der Walt et al. 1992). In humans, prolonged skin contact, or assimilation of the toxin via cuts or scratches on the hands, can cause extremely painful swelling and other symptoms such as nausea, headache, respiratory distress and an increased pulse rate.

During the dry season, P. bifasciatus takes shelter under rocks or logs, in holes excavated by other animals, in termitaria, in holes in trees or under loose bark, in the axils of banana leaves and in drain pipes (Pienaar et al. 1976; Wager 1986; Lambiris 1989a). It often shelters with other frogs, lizards, scorpions and whip scorpions (Jacobsen 1989). Although this species is not a true climber, the expanded digits enable it to climb rock surfaces and tree trunks with ease.

P. bifasciatus breeds during spring and summer, after sufficient rain has fallen to produce shallow pools and pans. These frogs are opportunistic in that they will breed in the smallest bodies of water. For example, tadpoles have been seen in the water-filled prints of animals such as elephants (Channing 2001).

The eggs are light brown at one pole, 1.3–1.5 mm in diameter, and are surrounded by a jelly capsule that expands from 4 to 7 mm in diameter (Stewart 1967). Clutches of 300–1500 eggs are laid in a mass of jelly, c.75 mm across, that is attached to vegetation or sinks to the bottom of the pool. Tadpoles hatch after four days (Power 1927a).

The tadpoles are gregarious. They resemble Xenopus tadpoles, but lack tentacles and have deeper, pigmented fins (black or red). They are filter-feeders, maintaining their position in the water column by means of a rapidly undulating tail tip. Tadpoles usually reach metamorphosis after about a month, depending on the availability of food (Wager 1986), but may take 90 days in captivity (Power 1926a).

The adults feed mainly on ants, but also consume other Hymenoptera, termites, grasshoppers and spiders (Jacobsen 1982). The Hamerkop Scopus umbretta is reported to prey on this species (Channing 2001).

Advertisement Call

The call is a drawn-out trill, lasting around three seconds. The call is high pitched and melodic. Males usually call from concealed positions under vegetation or rocks, in holes in trees, the ventilation shafts of termitaria, or from the hoofprints of cattle (pers. obs.), but also from more exposed sites. Males begin to call when they are some distance from the water’s edge, but as the intensity of the chorus increases they move closer to the water, calling from exposed sites at the water’s edge or from emergent or flooded vegetation (L.R. Minter pers. comm).

Status and Conservation

Due to its striking colouration and appearance, P. bifasciatus is well known in the pet trade It was imported into Germany before 1931 (Channing 2001) and is presently offered for sale on the internet. Nevertheless, the species is common throughout its range and occurs in a number of national parks and provincial nature reserves. It is not threatened and no additional conservation measures are needed.

Distribution

This widespread species is distributed from the Democratic Republic of Congo, eastern Ethiopia and Somalia, south through East Africa to northeastern South Africa. Its range extends westward through northern Botswana and northern Namibia to southern Angola.

In the atlas region, P. bifasciatus is recorded from northern KwaZulu-Natal (north of 29°S), Swaziland, eastern Mpumalanga, Limpopo Province, northern Gauteng and the central and northern parts of North West Province (north of 27°S and east of 24°E). Historical records from Durban (2930DD) and Kimberley (2824DB) may have been based on accidentally translocated individuals. No further records were obtained from these areas in the course of the atlas surveys, and the historical records have therefore been omitted from the atlas distribution map.

The atlas distribution data are accurate, but incomplete in some areas such as the Northern Cape and North West Province.

Distribution of Phrynomantis bifasciatus. Taken from the FrogMAP database as at September 2021.
Further Resources

Further Resources

Virtual Museum (FrogMAP > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

More common names: Gebande Rubberpadda (Afrikaans)

Recommended citation format for this species text:

du Preez LH, Tippett RM.  Banded Rubber Frog Phrynomantis bifasciatus. BDI, Cape Town.
Available online at http://thebdi.org/2021/10/12/banded-rubber-frog-phrynomantis-bifasciatus/

Recommended citation format: 

This species text has been updated and expanded from the text in the
2004 frog atlas. The reference to the text and the book are as follows:

Bates MF 2004 Phrynomantis bifasciatus Banded Rubber Frog. In Minter LR
et al 2004.

Minter LR, Burger M, Harrison JA, Braack HH, Bishop PJ, Kloepfer D (eds)
2004. Atlas and Red Data Book of  the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and
Swaziland. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and Avian Demography
Unit, Cape Town.

Ryan Tippett
Ryan Tippett
Ryan is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the Virtual Museum since 2014 and has currently submitted over 12,000 records. He is on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Ryan is a well-qualified and experienced Field Guide, and Guide Training Instructor. He has spent the last 18 years in the guiding and tourism industries. Ryan loves imparting his passion and knowledge onto others, and it is this that drew him into guide training in particular. Something that he finds incredibly rewarding is seeing how people he's had the privilege of teaching have developed and gone on to greater things. His interests are diverse and include Dragonflies, Birding, Arachnids, Amphibians, wild flowers and succulents, free diving and experiencing big game on foot. With this range of interests, there is always likely be something special just around the corner!

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