Leptodactylus fallax 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Anura Leptodactylidae

Scientific Name: Leptodactylus fallax Müller, 1926
Common Name(s):
English Mountain Chicken, Giant Ditch Frog
Taxonomic Source(s): Frost, D.R. 2014. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 6 (27 January 2014). New York, USA. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2014).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2ace ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2008-12-19
Assessor(s): John Fa, Blair Hedges, Beatrice Ibéné, Michel Breuil, Robert Powell, Christopher Magin
Reviewer(s): Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)
Listed as Critically Endangered because of a drastic population decline, estimated to be more than 80% over the last ten years, inferred from the apparent disappearance of most of the population due to chytridiomycosis and volcanic eruptions.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs mostly on the western side of Dominica (there is a more limited population-possibly translocated or reintroduced-on the eastern side, but not mapped here) and in the Centre Hills of northern Montserrat, having been unsuccessfully introduced on Jamaica and Puerto Rico. It has apparently been extirpated from Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St Kitts, and might once also have occurred on St Lucia and Antigua. Its range is now restricted on Dominica to around 25 km² and to about 20 km² on Montserrat. It is a relatively low-altitude species on Dominica, occurring from sea level up to (rarely) 400 m asl. On Montserrat it is present from sea level to 430 m asl.
Countries occurrence:
Dominica; Montserrat
Regionally extinct:
Guadeloupe; Martinique; Saint Kitts and Nevis
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):430
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The species might have been in decline on Montserrat since Cyclone Hugo in 1989 and the Soufriere volcanic eruption of 1995, but analysis of census data does not confirm this (J. Fa pers. comm.). The population on the eastern Centre Hills of Montserrat is relatively inaccessible, and is consequently larger. On Dominica it was formerly abundant in suitable habitat (possibly as recently as 2002), despite heavy exploitation for food (estimated annual harvest of 8,000-36,000 animals), but the population started to crash during 2002 with few individuals reported in 2003, and it might now be nearing extinction with a population suggested to be as low as 8,000 animals (Magin 2004).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species lives in dense secondary vegetation, plantations (Dominica only), ravines, and flooded forest. It is terrestrial and nocturnal, hiding in burrows during the day in moist forest. It appears as though the animals are associated with certain soil types that allow the digging of nests. The eggs are laid in foam nests at the bottom of a burrow. The tadpoles (26-43 per nest) develop terrestrially in the nest, not in water. Both females and males guard the nest. The larvae feed on infertile eggs deposited in the nest burrow by the female.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It has long been heavily used for food at a subsistence and national level.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is consumed by humans and is prized for its meat (both subsistence and commercial use for tourists), which has contributed to its decline. Substantial habitat loss is also taking place over much of its range due to agriculture, human settlement and pressure from touristic development. On Montserrat, populations in the South Soufriere Hills, Soufriere Hills and Garibaldi Hill have been lost to lava flows from recent volcanic eruptions. The population of Dominica, where the species was once most abundant, has declined catastrophically from 2002 until the present, following a major confirmed outbreak of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis. This decline is continuing and appears to have significantly impacted most, if not all, of the population in that country.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The protected areas of Dominica are generally above the maximum known elevation of the species and contain few, if any, animals. Captive populations occur in Jersey (Montserrat origin), St Louis (Dominican origin) and some other zoos. No hunting of animals on Dominica has been allowed since 2003, and public awareness actions have taken place to inform the Dominican public of the magnitude of threat facing their national dish and to discourage illegal hunting.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.8. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.3. Artificial/Terrestrial - Plantations
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.4. Artificial/Terrestrial - Rural Gardens
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.6. Artificial/Terrestrial - Subtropical/Tropical Heavily Degraded Former Forest
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Unknown
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
10. Geological events -> 10.1. Volcanoes
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.2. Small-holder farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.5. Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.1. Fire & fire suppression -> 7.1.3. Trend Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis ]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Breuil, M. 2004. Amphibiens et Reptiles des Antilles. PLB Editions, Guadeloupe.

Brooks, G.R. 1982. An analysis of prey consumed by the anuran Leptodactylus fallax, from Dominica, West Indies. Biortopica: 301-309.

Daltry, J.C. 1998. Mountain Chicken Emergency Assessment: findings of field work in January and February 1998. Preliminary Report. Fauna and Flora International.

Daltry, J.C. 2002. Mountain Chicken Monitoring Manual. First Draft. Fauna and Flora International, Cambridge, and the Forestry and Wildlife Division, Dominica.

Daltry, J.C. and Gray, G. 1999. Effects of volcanic activity on the endangered mountain chicken frog (Leptodactylus fallax). FrogLog: 1-2.

Davis, S.L., Davis, R.B., James, A. and Talyn, B.C.P. 2000. Reproductive behaviour and larval development of Leptodactylus fallax in Dominica, West Indies. Herpetological Review: 217-220.

Gibson, R.C. and Buley, K.R. 2001. A new mode of endotrophic reproduction in frogs - evolutionary pioneering by mountain chickens. In: de Silva, A. (ed.), Abstracts: Fourth World Congress of Herpetology, 3-9 December 2001, Bentota, Sri Lanka, pp. 33-34.

Gibson, R.C. and Buley, K.R. 2004. Maternal care and obligatory oophagy in Leptodactylus fallax: a new reproductive mode in frogs. Copeia: 128-135.

Hedges, S.B. 1993. Global amphibian declines: a perspective from the Caribbean. Biodiversity and Conservation 2(3): 290-303.

Hedges, S.B. 1999. Distribution of amphibians in the West Indies. In: W.E. Duellman (ed.), Patterns of Distribution of Amphibians. A Global Perspective, pp. 211-254. The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, Maryland.

Hedges, S.B. 2001. Caribherp: database of West Indian amphibians and reptiles ( Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Hedges, S.B. and Díaz, L.M. 2009. Amphibian conservation in the West Indies. In: H.H. Heatwole and J.W. Wilkenson (eds), Amphibian Biology: Conservation and Decline of Amphibians, Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton.

Henderson, R.W. and Powell, R. 1999. West Indian herpetoecology. In: B.I. Crother (ed.), Caribbean Amphibians and Reptiles, pp. 223-226. Academic Press, San Diego, California.

Henderson, R.W. and Powell, R. 2001. Responses by the West Indian herpetofauna to human-influenced resources. Caribbean Journal of Science 37: 41-54.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.2). Available at: (Accessed: 29 June 2010).

Kaiser, H. 1994. Leptodactylus fallax. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles: 1-3.

Kaiser, H. and Henderson, R.W. 1994. The conservation status of Lesser Antillean frogs. Herpetological Natural History 2(2): 41-56.

Lescure, J. and Letellier, F. 1983. Reproduction en captivité de Leptodactylus fallax Müller, 1926 (Amphibia, Leptodactylidae). Revue Française d'Aquariologie: 61-64.

Lorvelec, O., Pascal, M., Pavis, C. and Feldmann, P. 2007. Amphibians and reptiles of the French West Indies: Inventory, threats and conservation. Applied Herpetology 4: 131-161.

Magin, C. 2003. Dominica's frogs are croaking. Oryx: 406.

Magin, C. 2004. Wildlife Survey Report. Fauna and Flora International, Cambridge, and the Forestry and Wildlife Division, Dominica.

Malhotra, A., Thorpe, R.S., Hypolite, E. and James, A. 2007. A report on the status of the herpetofauna of the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies. Applied Herpetology 4: 177-194.

McIntyre, S. 2003. The current status of the mountain chicken Leptodactylus fallax on Dominica, Eastern Caribbean; an amphibian in decline. MSc thesis, University of East Anglia.

Schwartz, A. and Henderson, R.W. 1991. Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies: Descriptions, Distributions and Natural History. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida.

Citation: John Fa, Blair Hedges, Beatrice Ibéné, Michel Breuil, Robert Powell, Christopher Magin. 2010. Leptodactylus fallax. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T57125A11586775. . Downloaded on 19 October 2017.
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