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Temporal range: Early Oligocene–present
Cyprus water frog
P. cypriensis
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Ranidae
Genus: Pelophylax
Fitzinger, 1843
Type species
Rana esculenta
25 species, some of which are hybridogenic
  • Baliopygus Schultze, 1891
  • "Palmirana" Ritgen, 1828 (nomen nudum)

Pelophylax is a genus of true frogs widespread in Eurasia, with a few species ranging into northern Africa. This genus was erected by Leopold Fitzinger in 1843 to accommodate the green frogs of the Old World, which he considered distinct from the brown pond frogs of Carl Linnaeus' genus Rana.

They are also known as water frogs, as they spend much of the summer living in aquatic habitat; the pond frogs can be found more often, by comparison, on dry land, as long as there is sufficient humidity. Yet there are species of Eurasian green frogs – the Central Asian P. terentievi, or the Sahara frog (P. saharicus) – which inhabit waterholes in the desert.

Systematics and taxonomy[edit]

Parent species of Graf's hybrid frog, P. kl. grafi
Perez's frog, P. perezi
Marsh frog, P. ridibundus

Most authors throughout the 19th and 20th century disagreed with Fitzinger's assessment. The green frogs were included again with the brown frogs, in line with the tendency to place any frog similar in habitus to the common frog (R. temporaria) in Rana. That genus, in the loose circumscription, eventually became a sort of "wastebin taxon".

Around 2000, with molecular phylogenetic studies becoming commonplace, it was discovered that Fitzinger's assessment was correct after all – not only is Pelophylax an independent genus, but it does in fact belong to a lineage of Raninae not particularly close to Rana. But it also turned out that these Eurasian green frogs might not form a monophyletic lineage. The sheer number of species involved in the group of Pelophylax and its closest relatives means that it will probably be some time until the definite circumscription of this genus is resolved.[1][2][3]

The Pelophylax frogs belong to a group of moderately advanced Raninae – possibly a clade – that also includes such genera as Babina, Glandirana, Hylarana, Pulchrana, Sanguirana, Sylvirana, as well as Hydrophylax which like Pelophylax is suspected of being not monophyletic. These genera were formerly also included in Rana by most authors, and several of them have only been established in the 1990s. And as regards the possible paraphyly of Pelophylax, it seems that some species assigned there are very close to Hylarana, and thus it might simply be a matter of moving them to that genus. But hybridogenic speciation is running rampant in the Old World green frogs, and this obfuscates the data gained from DNA sequence analyses.[1][2][3]


The extinct P. pueyoi from the Miocene of Spain

Pelophylax is a rather old and well-represented genus, with articulated fossils from Europe known as far back as the Early Oligocene. It has been theorized that Pelophylax originated in Asia no later than 5 million years before the earliest known fossils, and then dispersed west. It may have colonized Europe in the wake of a cooling/drying trend and the resulting Eocene-Oligocene extinction event, as part of an overall replacement of Europe's previously tropical frog fauna of African origin (such as the pyxicephalid Thaumastosaurus) by a more temperate fauna of Asian origin.[4][5]

The oldest Pelophylax specimen is an articulated but headless specimen known from the earliest Oligocene of Chartres-de-Bretagne, France, which appears to be from the Pelophylax kl. esculentus hybrid complex. The species P. aquensis (formerly Rana aquensis) is known from the Late Oligocene of southern France, and fossil species become more common during the Miocene.[4][6]


Including named klepta (hybridogenic species), Pelophylax sensu lato contains 25 species:[3]

Named klepta (hybridogenic species) of Pelophylax are:

In addition, one species has been described that is sometimes assigned to Pelophylax, but must be considered a nomen oblitum:

The following fossil species are also known:[4][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hong-xia Cai; Jing Che; Jun-feng Pang; Er-mi Zhao; Ya-ping Zhang (2007). "Paraphyly of Chinese Amolops (Anura, Ranidae) and phylogenetic position of the rare Chinese frog, Amolops tormotus" (PDF). Zootaxa. 1531: 49–55. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.1531.1.4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-02-03.
  2. ^ a b Bryan L. Stuart (2008). "The phylogenetic problem of Huia (Amphibia: Ranidae)" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 46 (1): 49–60. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.09.016. PMID 18042407. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  3. ^ a b c "Pelophylax". Amphibian Species of the World version 5.3. February 12, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Lemierre, Alfred; Gendry, Damien; Poirier, Marie-Margaux; Gillet, Valentin; Vullo, Romain (2022-10-28). "The oldest articulated ranid from Europe: a Pelophylax specimen from the lowest Oligocene of Chartres-de-Bretagne (N.W. France)". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 42 (4). doi:10.1080/02724634.2023.2191663. ISSN 0272-4634.
  5. ^ Georgalis, Georgios L; Prendini, Elizabeth; Roček, Zbyněk (2023-07-11). "New information on the Eocene frog Thaumastosaurus (Anura, Pyxicephalidae) from the Phosphorites du Quercy, France". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 199 (3): 744–770. doi:10.1093/zoolinnean/zlad047. ISSN 0024-4082.
  6. ^ Blain, Hugues-Alexandre; Přikryl, Tomáš; Moreno-Ribas, Elena; Canudo, José Ignacio (2022-08-31). "The first discovery of in situ Pelophylax pueyoi (Amphibia: Anura) from the Late Miocene of Libros Konservat-Lagerstätte (Teruel, Spain)". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 42 (2). doi:10.1080/02724634.2022.2162410. ISSN 0272-4634.
  7. ^ Sanchiz, B. (2012-01-01). "Nomenclatural notes on living and fossil amphibians". Graellsia.

External links[edit]