Eastern Olive Toad (Sclerophrys garmani)

View the above photo record (by Felicity Grundlingh) in FrogMAP here.

Find the Eastern Olive Toad in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Bufonidae

EASTERN OLIVE TOAD – Sclerophrys garmani

(Meek, 1897)

Habitat

This species inhabits various bushveld vegetation types in the Savanna Biome and seems to prefer well-wooded, low-lying areas with high daytime temperatures. During the day, individuals may be found under fallen logs, rocks and mats of vegetation, or beneath any object that provides shelter around houses. In northern Kruger National Park, specimens have been found in abandoned termitaria (H. Braack pers. obs.).

Breeding usually occurs in small, shallow, temporary water bodies, but occasionally the quiet backwaters of rivers and pools along small, slow-flowing streams are used (Lambiris 1989a). They also breed in artificial water bodies such as farm dams and ornamental ponds around homesteads. In the urban environment, S. garmani is less common than S. gutturalis.

Behaviour

Most breeding takes place during spring and summer, continuing into January and occasionally February. Breeding commences after the first substantial spring rains, or earlier if artificial water bodies such as garden ponds are available.

Sclerophrys garmani – Near Hoedspruit, Limpopo
Photo by J.K. Boyce

Males call from the edges of water bodies, often forming small choruses. They exhibit call-site fidelity, returning to the same site even when removed and released a considerable distance away (Pienaar et al. 1976). Amplexus is axillary, and displacement of amplexing males is frequent, with “knots” of several males and a single female forming at times (H. Braack pers. comm.). Eggs are laid in double strands containing up to 12 000–20 000 eggs (Channing 2001). The eggs hatch within 24 hours; metamorphosis takes place after 64 days (Du Preez 1996). Tadpoles assume a lighter or darker colouring to match the substrate (Channing 2001).

The eggs of S. garmani are eaten by the Serrated Hinged Terrapin Pelusios sinuatus, Müller’s Platanna Xenopus muelleri, and by their own tadpoles, while the adult frogs are taken by young crocodiles (Channing 2001). Other predators include various small carnivores, snakes and birds. Their prey includes beetles, termites, moths, insect larvae and other small invertebrates. After rain, when alate termites emerge, these toads congregate around the openings of termitaria where they gorge themselves on alates (Pienaar et al. 1976).

Status and Conservation

S. garmani is a common and widespread species and occurs in a number of national parks and provincial and private nature reserves. Much of its habitat is used for cattle and game ranching and is therefore not threatened. On the contrary, it is possible that the species has expanded its range as a result of the construction of artificial watering points for livestock.

Although the species is not under any immediate threat and is not a conservation priority, many of these toads are killed by motor vehicles as they cross roads at night during the breeding season (Pienaar et al. 1976). Many also suffer violent deaths at the hands of intolerant humans, irritated by their mating calls – a great pity as these vigorous calls are a quintessential feature of African bushveld nights. The fate of these and other frogs highlights the need for public education in the fascinating biology and ecological significance of frogs.

Sclerophrys garmani – Near Hoedspruit, Limpopo
Photo by Alison Sharp

Distribution

S. garmani has a wide distribution in the eastern savannas of Africa, ranging from Somalia in the north to South Africa in the south (Poynton 1964; Channing 1991). In the atlas region, the species occurs in northern KwaZulu-Natal and extends to the northwest through the lowveld of Swaziland, Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, and westward along the Limpopo River valley.

Some confusion exists as to the western limit of the distribution of S. garmani, as it is difficult to distinguish this species from the morphologically similar S. poweri (see B. poweri species account). While the advertisement call of S. garmani has a relatively slower pulse rate and shorter duration than that of S. poweri (Channing 1991), this can be determined only by sonagraphic analysis. The majority of the atlas distribution records for these two species were not based on tape recordings and therefore the distribution data for S. garmani and S. poweri have been combined and are presented here in a single map. More intensive distribution surveys based on recorded calls and molecular analysis are required to elucidate the distributions of these species. In other respects the atlas data are reliable.

Distribution of Sclerophrys garmani. Taken from the FrogMAP database, April 2022.

Further Resources

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

More common names: Eastern Olive Toad, Garman’s Toad (Alternative English Names); Olyfskurwepadda (Afrikaans)

Recommended citation format for this species text:

Turner A, Tippett RM.  Olive Toad Sclerophrys garmani. BDI, Cape Town.
Available online at http://thebdi.org/2022/01/15/olive-toad-sclerophrys-garmani/

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:

Turner A 2004 Sclerophrys garmani Olive Toad. 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!