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New Zealand primitive frogs
Temporal range: 200–0Ma
Early Jurassic – Recent[1]
Hochstetters Frog on Moss.jpg
Hochstetter's Frog (Leiopelma hochstetteri)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Suborder: Archaeobatrachia
Family: Leiopelmatidae
Mivart, 1869
Genus: Leiopelma
Fitzinger, 1861

See text.

Leiopelmatidae range zoomed.png
Distribution of Leiopelmatidae (in black)

The Leiopelmatidae, or New Zealand primitive frogs, are a family belonging to the suborder Archaeobatrachia. Their relatively primitive form indicates they have an ancient lineage.[2][3] While some taxonomists have suggested combining the North American frogs of the genus Ascaphus in the Ascaphidae family with the New Zealand frogs of the genus Leiopelma in the Leiopelmatidae family, the current consensus is that these two groups constitute two separate families.[4][5][6] The four extant species of Leiopelmatidae are only found in New Zealand.[7]


Their defining characteristics are their extra vertebrae (bringing the total to 9) and the remains of the tail muscles (the tail itself is absent in adults, although it is present in the younger frogs, which need the extra skin surface until their lungs are fully developed). The family Ascaphidae (found only in North America), of the same suborder, shares these primitive characteristics, and hence the two have often been described as related, or even part of the same family.

Late jump recovery is unique in the Leiopelmatidae. When leiopelmatid species jump, they land in a "belly flop" fashion, repositioning their limbs for takeoff for the next jump only after hitting the ground with the ventral surface of their torsos. The appearance of early jump recovery in more advanced taxa is a key innovation in anuran evolution.[8]

They are unusually small frogs, only 5 cm (2.0 in) in length. Most species lay their eggs in moist ground, typically under rocks or vegetation. After hatching, the tadpoles nest in the male's back, all without the need for standing or flowing water. However, Hochstetter's frog lays its eggs in shallow ponds and has free-living tadpoles, although they do not swim far from the place of hatching, or even feed, before metamorphosing into adult frogs.[1] Lifespans may be long (more than 30 years) for such small organisms.[9]



Extinct species[edit]

Three extinct species are known by subfossil remains, also from New Zealand. They became extinct during the past 1,000 years.[10][11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Zweifel, Richard G. (1998). Cogger, H.G. & Zweifel, R.G., ed. Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-12-178560-2. 
  2. ^ Roelants, Kim; Franky Bossuyt (February 2005). "Archaeobatrachian paraphyly and Pangaean diversification of crown-group frogs". Systematic Biology 54 (1): 111–126. doi:10.1080/10635150590905894. PMID 15805014. 
  3. ^ San Mauro, Diego; Miguel Vences, Marina Alcobendas, Rafael Zardoya and Axel Meyer (May 2005). "Initial diversification of living amphibians predated the breakup of Pangaea" (– Scholar search). American Naturalist 165 (5): 590–599. doi:10.1086/429523. PMID 15795855.  [dead link]
  4. ^ Frost DR. Amphibian species of the world: an online reference. Version 5.6. American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA. Electronic database accessible at http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/index.php, 2013.
  5. ^ J.M. Conlon et al. / Peptides 30 (2009) 1069–1073
  6. ^ http://tolweb.org/Leiopelma
  7. ^ "DOC: Photo-stage and Archey's Frog". Retrieved 2005-12-05. 
  8. ^ Landing in basal frogs: evidence of saltational patterns in the evolution of anuran locomotion. Essner RL Jr, Suffian DJ, Bishop PJ, Reilly SM. Naturwissenschaften. 2010 Jul 13. [Epub ahead of print]
  9. ^ Bell, Ben D. et al. (2004). "The fate of a population of the endemic frog Leiopelma pakeka (Anura: Leiopelmatidae) translocated to restored habitat on[Maud Island, New Zealand". New Zealand Journal of Zoology 31 (2): 123–131. doi:10.1080/03014223.2004.9518366. 
  10. ^ Worthy, Trevor H. (1987). "Osteology of Leiopelma (Amphibia: Leiopelmatidae) and descriptions of three new subfossil Leiopelma species". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 17 (3): 201–251. doi:10.1080/03036758.1987.10418160. 
  11. ^ Worthy, Trevor H. (1987). "Palaeoecological information concerning members of the frog genus Leiopelma: Leiopelmatidae in New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 17 (4): 409–420. doi:10.1080/03036758.1987.10426482. 
  12. ^ Nadia Webster (2004). "Native frog captive husbandry manual". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  13. ^ "Holotype of Leiopelma markhami". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  14. ^ "Holotype of Leiopelma waitomoensis". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]