Painted Reed Frogs of Southern Africa

The painted reed frog is the most widespread species of reed frog in Southern Africa, with a distribution that stretches from mid Western Cape, along the coast, to the top of Mozambique. Painted reed frogs are generally quite small with a maximum body size of approximately 33mm. Although restricted to the reeds and similar vegetation, along the fringes of waterbodies, the species is widespread and can be found in grassland, savannah, forest and fynbos. Painted reed frogs are active at night, with males descending from dense vegetation, at dusk, to call for mates during the warmer months. The species tends to retreat to the safety of tall reeds and sedges during the day but sometimes individuals can be found basking in the day, on exposed reeds, with their pigmentation turned to grey/white and their legs and feet tucked underneath their bodies.

There are currently three recognized subspecies of painted reed frogs and each of these has a distinctive colouration and distribution. Hyperolius marmoratus verrucosus is the most widespread sub-species in South Africa, with a distribution that stretches from mid Western Cape to the top of the Eastern Cape. Hyperolius marmoratus marmoratus is the most restricted with a distribution that spans the lower two-thirds of Kwazulu Natal, and a little bit of the Eastern Cape.

Hyperolius marmoratus taeniatus is the most widespread sub-species of painted reed frog with a distribution that stretches from the top of Kwazulu Natal, along the coast to the top of Mozambique. Unlike the other sub-species, H. m. taeniatus is also the only one that is found relatively far inland, being found in Swaziland, Mpumulanga, Limpopo, and eastern Zimbabwe. Although the sub-species’ are geographically and visually distinct, they are genetically identical and thus still referred to as sub-species, rather than full species. Dogs are much the same because although they may look, think and act differently from one another, they are genetically similar and thus are not seen as species.

Although the taxonomy of painted reed frog’s can be tricky at first, it is hard to argue that these little guys are among the most beautiful frogs in all of Africa. Take a look at the pictures below to see the awesome diversity present in this species.

Hyperolius marmoratus marmoratus

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Hyperolius marmoratus verrucosus

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Hyperolius marmoratus taeniatus

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