Unlike their cousins, rain frogs spend very little time in water. Instead, they live in the sand dunes of Namibia and South Africa. They have adapted to this harsh environment, with a host of curious traits. For example, they don’t croak — but that doesn’t mean they’re docile. In fact, these frogs make a high-pitched squeal sound that sounds like a child’s toy when they are threatened, a frightful noise that may deter predators from attacking them.
Another odd characteristic of the rain frog is its skin, which has smooth warts and small knobby tubercles. The frog’s skin can also cling to sand, a strategy that helps it blend in with its surroundings and keep away predators. It’s one of many ways that the frog survives in its desert habitat.
Pitter-Patter Players: Exploring the Ecology and Behavior of Rain Frogs
You might think that rain frogs are not able to reproduce since most frog species require access to water to lay eggs and hatch their young into tadpoles. The frogs in the Breviceps genus, however, didn’t get that memo. Instead of producing a rigid egg case, they produce a mucous layer that mimics the effect of water and allows them to thrive on land.
Despite these adaptations, the desert rain frog’s situation is still precarious. Humans are the frog’s biggest threat, with mining operations for useless diamonds encroaching on their natural habitat. These frogs’ narrow tolerance for environmental conditions makes them particularly sensitive to changes in their surroundings, making them useful indicator species that show us how healthy our shared planet is. Each Wednesday, One Earth will feature a different animal that is remarkable in its own way to highlight the beauty, diversity and wonder of our world.