Shovel-footed Squeaker (Arthroleptis stenodactylus)

View the above photo record (by Len de Beer) in FrogMAP here.

Find the Shovel-footed Squeaker in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Arthroleptidae

SHOVEL-FOOTED SQUEAKER – Arthroleptis stenodactylus

Pfeffer, 1893


In South Africa this species occurs in wooded areas with abundant leaf litter and sandy soils. Along the coast it inhabits Dune Forest and forest patches in Coastal Bushveld/Grassland, while in the northern Kruger National Park it was found in the leaf litter of riverine woodland (H.H. Braack pers. comm.). Breeding takes place in the same habitat.


Breeding occurs from December–February (Stewart 1967). Males call from the ground among leaf litter. The eggs are laid in hollows or shallow burrows in leaf litter beneath bushes or around the roots of trees. Up to 80 eggs are laid, which develop directly into small froglets (Barbour and Loveridge 1928; Loveridge 1953a).

Arthroleptis stenodactylus – Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Tyrone Ping

During the dry season, the adults take shelter in hollow trees, moss, rotten wood, and soil at the base of trees (Loveridge 1953b,c).

Their diet includes termites, ants and a wide range of other small arthropods; more unusual items include snails and frogs (Barbour and Loveridge 1928; Inger and Marx 1961). They are fed upon by various snakes, including Eastern Vine Snake Thelotornis mossambicanus, White-lipped Snake Crotaphopeltis tornieri, Eastern Stripe-bellied Sand Snake Psammophis orientalis and Green Water Snake Philothamnus hoplogaster (Barbour and Loveridge 1928; Loveridge 1953a; Blake 1965).

Arthroleptis stenodactylus – Zimbabwe
Photo by Nick Hart

Status and Conservation

This species is widespread and common and does not require specific conservation action.


A. stenodactylus is a widespread species that extends from southern and eastern DRC to Kenya, south to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In the atlas region it has a peripheral distribution, occurring along the coastal plain north of Empangeni (2831DD), and in the Limpopo River valley in the extreme north of Limpopo Province. This species is easily recognized by its call. The atlas data are reliable.

Distribution of Arthroleptis stenodactylus. Taken from the FrogMAP database, April 2022.

Further Resources

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

More common names: Dune Squeaker (Alternative English Name); Graafpootkikker (Afrikaans)

Recommended citation format for this species text:

Channing A, Tippett RM.  Shovel-footed Squeaker Arthroleptis stenodactylus. BDI, Cape Town.
Available online at

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:

Channing A 2004 Arthroleptis stenodactylus Shovel-footed Squeaker. 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!