The Desert Rain Frog: this Smallest and Cutest Creature Squeaks Like a Dog Chew Toy

Desert rain frogs are incredible creatures. They are one of the world’s cutest and smallest species of frog family. Unfortunately, people pose a threat to these adorable amphibians. So, what fascinates you about the frog? Here are 8 facts about desert rain frogs.

Desert Rain Frog
Scientific name: Breviceps macrops
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Genus: Breviceps

1. Desert rain frogs have a weird look

The desert rain frog is a little frog and it is among the tiniest frogs on earth. Its size may not be more than 2.5 inches (6.3 cm), which is just as big as a tennis ball. While the world’s biggest frog – the goliath – can reach the size of more than 1 foot (30.5 cm).

The shape of these frogs is spherical, like a potato. They have enormous and bulging eyeballs which give them great vision at night. A little, short snout lays beneath their eyeballs. The frog’s dorsal surface is covered in smooth bumps.

These potato-shaped amphibians come in pretty little limbs with the shape of spades. If notice, you’ll see webs between their toes. This feature helps them a lot in digging tunnels.

The desert rain frogs are mostly yellow and brown, however, most photographs make them appear lighter. This is because a coat of sand normally sticks to their skin. This color allows the frogs to blend in with their surroundings, keeping them safe from predators. You can barely see them, even in the daylight.

The desert rain frog have a potato-like shape

Like the glass frog, you can see through the desert rain frog’s body. Its abdomen region is transparent so that its whole digestive system as well as the blood vessels surrounding it is visible. This characteristic makes the frog different from other rain frogs

The frogs are so cute that people are inspired to make things about them from capsule toys, and figurines to earrings, phone cases, etc.

2. They have adapted to the harsh environment

As the name, the desert rain frog is a frog that lives in the deserts of South Africa and Namibia. Unlike the other frogs, it doesn’t reside near water sources. Instead of that, it lives in dry and sandy areas, frequently near dunes, like most species live in Africa’s desert. It has a whole range of only about 772 square miles (2000 square km).

Although desert rain frogs don’t live near water, they still need water on their skin to be able to breathe. This is difficult in such a tough and dry environment like this. But the frog can get the water they need due to the fact that sea fog frequently rushes in from the Atlantic ocean, making the habitat less arid. Some places have up to 120 fog days.

The desert rain frogs take water from the sand through a translucent area on their abdomens, rather than by their tongue. That’s why they bury themselves in the sand every day. They absorb water when resting.

These tiny frogs burrow moist sand pretty effectively. Their little feet act as excavators, allowing them to easily navigate the sand. They can dig quickly because their back foot has paddle-like flanges. And they have to do this real quick to get water from the deeper before it becomes too dry.

Given the frog’s diminutive size, their tunnels may surprise you with a depth of up to 8 inches (20 cm). The length of the burrows can be 15 times longer than their bodies.

Aside from their scientific names, Breviceps macrops, these potato-shaped amphibians are also called by other common names, like web-footed rain frog or Boulenger’s short-headed frog.

3. They stay under the sand for a whole day

Another difference between this frog and its relatives is that the desert rain frogs do not leap. They can only walk since their limbs are so little in comparison to their body mass, and their hands contain a weak subarticular.

The potato-shaped frogs are nocturnal, which means they’re most active at night. The frogs spend most of their time in their moist 3.9 to 7.9-inch tunnels, and they can stay there for months at a time. Their location is usually recognized by little heaps of loosened sand caused by their burrowing.

The grumpy desert frog stay under the sand for all day long.

At night, desert rain frogs emerge in search of food. They move across the dunes, leaving their characteristic footsteps in the sand, near dung patches. These places are where they are believed to eat beetles, moths, and insect larvae. Those species gather in groups, or armies, near the hole of the frogs’ tunnels.

4. They do not croak

To protect themselves, threaten enemies, or attract partners; most frogs croak and squeak. You can this obviously in the Budgett’s frog that has the noisiest sound ever. But desert rain frogs don’t croak, they make their own noises instead.

These desert frogs creaks, which sounds like a dog’s high-pitched chew toy. And they only squeak to defend themselves and frighten predators. You can hear the angry desert frog makes war cry in the video below.

5. Diet

The primary diet of squeaky desert frogs is invertebrates, such as spiders, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and ants. They also eat small vertebrates like lizards and snakes.

As a secondary consumer, these frogs have quite a few predators. Their habitat is home to 92 different bird of prey species. The Cinnamon-breasted warbler, the Cape eagle owl, the marsh harrier, and the majestic black eagle are all part of this group. There are about 50 species of land animals like honey badgers, aardwolfs, etc.

Among these creatures, desert rain frogs can be eaten by any of them.

6. They have a skipping lifecycle

The breeding season for these frogs occurs in late summer and continues until early fall (from June – October). Because these frogs are nocturnal, their mating procedure usually happens at night.

A lengthy, drawn-out, and rising whistle is used by the male to lure a possible mate. When the copulation finishes, the female dig and lay a brood of 12 to 40 eggs. One of the most interesting facts about desert screaming frogs is that they don’t have the tadpole phase. The hatchlings bypass the tadpole stage and become froglets. There is no phase of development or reliance on a parent.

The newly born frogs are generally healthy and eager to explore, feed, and burrow. They can develop to the size of 2 inches in length and weigh as little as 0.4 ounces. Desert rain frogs’ lifespan often lasts for 4 to 15 years.

7. They’re endangered

In 1977, the desert rain frog is discovered and had a large population at the time. Their community was dispersed across Port Nolloth, South Africa.

However, they’re in danger now. In 2004, research revealed that the species was rapidly disappearing. Their habitat has now been confined to a six-mile-wide coastal strip documented in 11 locations within a 400-kilometer radius. According to the IUCN, their conservation status is now listed as vulnerable.

The main concern to these tiny desert frogs is habitat loss caused by global warming and human impacts.

Namaqualand has large copper and diamond reserves. Unfortunately, these frogs live in this area. Strip mining keeps causing havoc on the frog’s environment. However, pollution is not the only main cause. Human expansion, as well as housing projects, also puts them at risk of losing their habitat. All of this contributes to the desert frog’s population reduction and forces it to constrict its habitat.

Nowadays, this kind of frog can only be found in the untouched natural setting of Port Nolloth’s coastal dunes in South Africa. Due to the high fog density, this area isn’t invaded much by humans.

Another threat is that the South African rain frogs are hunted for meat in some cultures and for pet industry market.  

Some governments have legislations to protect these species. In the US, it is unlawful to import or export desert rain frogs.

8. They make a good pet

The desert rain frog is not dangerous to people or other animals, except their prey. This frog, unlike other African species, is neither fierce nor poisonous. You can have a desert rain frog as a pet, as long as it’s legal in your country. 

The desert rain frogs can make good pets. All you have to do I give them an enclosure with enough space for them to dig, regulated the temperature and humid conditions, and feed them. If you want to know how to take care of a desert rain frog, you can read the guidelines here.

Raising a frog means you won’t get any affection from the screaming desert frog. Your African desert frog doesn’t really bond with you. The only difference is that the frog will be peaceful when you feed it. It correlates your existence with the availability of food.


Animal Facts 276

We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

Leave a Comment