Amietia vertebralis 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Anura Pyxicephalidae

Scientific Name: Amietia vertebralis
Species Authority: (Hewitt, 1927)
Common Name(s):
English Aquatic River Frog, Ice Frog, Large-mouthed Frog, Maluti River Frog
<i>Amietia umbraculata</i> Bush, 1952
<i>Rana umbraculata</i> Bush, 1952
Taxonomic Source(s): Frost, D.R. 2016. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 6.0 (31 March 2016). New York, USA. Available at:
Taxonomic Notes: This species has a confusing taxonomic history which has recently been reviewed (Tarrant et al. 2008). The last Red List assessment of populations now associated to this species was made under the name Strongylopus hymenopus and likely included other taxa (see Minter et al. 2004; Tarrant et al. 2008).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2010-02-08
Assessor(s): South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG), IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Angulo, A. & Menegon, M.
Contributor(s): Channing, A., Turner, A.A., de Villiers, A., Harvey, J., Tarrant, J., Measey, J., Tolley, K., Minter, L., du Preez, L., Burger, M., Cunningham, M. & Davies, S.
This species has been assessed as Near Threatened as the recent change in its taxonomic status means that it is not as widespread as previously thought (Tarrant et al. 2008), and threats do not appear to be as severe. However, it may be vulnerable to invasive predatory fish, overgrazing with subsequent siltation and, several die-offs associated with the chytrid fungus have already been observed. As this is a high-altitude species dependent on pristine habitat, it may also be vulnerable to small changes in climate.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

This species is endemic to the cold and wet north-eastern Drakensberg, restricted mainly to the South African side (Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Free State), at altitudes between 1,800 and 3,200 m. It is commonly found in streams and rivers flowing eastward into South Africa rather than those flowing west into Lesotho. Although some subpopulations are noted to have declined, no reduction in Extent of Occurrence of 4,000 km2 has yet been noted.

Countries occurrence:
Lesotho; South Africa (Free State, KwaZulu-Natal)
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:4000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:12Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):1800
Upper elevation limit (metres):3200
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Concerns have been raised over recorded pathogen-related mortalities (Smith et al. 2007), although the effect on populations is as yet unknown. It is locally abundant in its restricted range.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It is a water-dependent species in montane grassland. It is found only in pristine habitats, and it is not present in agricultural areas. It is not known to move over land. It breeds in cold clear streams with associated pools with rocky substrates.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: There are no reports of this species being utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): It is not significantly threatened because of the remoteness of its habitat. Local populations may be affected by overgrazing by livestock (causing erosion and subsequent siltation) and dams on rivers. An additional observed risk is the threat of predation and competition posed by the introduction of trout and other alien fish for recreational fishing into the main rivers of Lesotho (Swartz 2005). There are several undocumented chytrid related die-off events recorded for this species at several sites (du Preez & Weldon pers. comm. December 2009), and chytrid infection rate is up to 38.6% in tadpoles (Smith et al. 2007), although these subpopulations at these same sites still appear healthy (du Preez & Weldon pers. comm. December 2009).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species would benefit from monitoring of subpopulations with particular reference to the spread and effect of chytrid. Base line data on life-history, ecology, population trends and threats are all required before monitoring can begin. It occurs in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.

Classifications [top]

4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.2. Small-holder grazing, ranching or farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats

Bibliography [top]

Bates, M.F. 2002. Distribution of Amietia vertebralis (Hewitt, 1927) (Anura: Ranidae), with comments on its taxonomic and conservation status. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein: 77-94.

Bates, M.F. and Haacke, W.D. 2003. The frogs of Lesotho: diversity and distribution. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 19: 101-158.

Channing, A. 1979. Ecological and systematic relationships of Rana and Strongylopus in southern Natal. Annals of the Natal Museum 23: 797-831.

Channing, A. 2001. Amphibians of Central and Southern Africa. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.3). Available at: (Accessed: 2 September 2010).

Lambiris, A.J.L. 1989. A review of the amphibians of Natal. Lammergeyer 39: 1-210.

Minter, L.R., Burger, M., Harrison, J.A., Braack, H.H., Bishop, P.J. and Knoepfer, D. 2004. Atlas and Red Data Book of the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. SI/MAB Series No. 9, Washington, D.C.

Passmore, N.I. and Carruthers, V.C. 1995. South African Frogs, 2nd Edition. Southern Book Publishers and Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg.

Poynton, J.C. 1964. The amphibia of southern Africa: a faunal study. Annals of the Natal Museum 17: 1-334.

Tarrant, J., Cunningham, M.J. and Du Preez, L.H. 2008. Maluti Mystery: A systematic review of Amietia vertebralis (Hewitt, 1927) and Strongylopus hymenopus (Boulenger, 1920) (Anura: Pyxicephalidae). Zootaxa 1962: 33-48.

van Dijk, D.E. 1996. Anuran fauna of the Lesotho Highlands in the Khatse Dam catchment area and Jorodane River region. Koedoe: 77-90.

Wager, V.A. 1986. Frogs of South Africa, 2nd edition. Delta Books, Craighall.

Citation: South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG), IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2010. Amietia vertebralis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T54359A11129360. . Downloaded on 03 December 2016.
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