Afrixalus spinifrons 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Anura Hyperoliidae

Scientific Name: Afrixalus spinifrons (Cope, 1862)
Common Name(s):
English Natal Leaf-folding Frog, Intermediate Spiny Reed Frog, Natal Banana Frog, Natal Spiny Reed Frog
Hyperolius spinifrons Cope, 1862
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).
Taxonomic Notes: Afrixalus spinifrons is an endemic species complex comprising Afrixalus knysnae and two subspecies, Afrixalus spinifrons spinifrons confined to the central KwaZulu-Natal coast and A. s. intermedius from the KwaZulu-Natal midlands (sensu Pickersgill 1996). Subpopulations from the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal previously assigned to Afrixalus knysnae were re-assigned to A. spinifrons (Pickersgill 1996). Tarrant (2012) showed that, according to molecular and morphological descriptions, Eastern Cape populations should be referred to A. s. intermedius instead of A. s. spinifrons as previously thought. Tarrant (2012) also suggested that the uMkomaas River is a possible boundary to A. s. spinifrons. The two subspecies are distinguishable on the basis of morphology, genetics and calls.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-08-04
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG)
Reviewer(s): Luedtke, J.
Contributor(s): Channing, A., Rebelo, A., Turner, A.A., de Villiers, A., Becker, F., Harvey, J., Tarrant, J., Measey, J., Tolley, K., Minter, L., du Preez, L., Burger, M., Cunningham, M., Baptista, N., Hopkins, R., Davies, S., Conradie, W. & Chapeta, Y.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Rebelo, A., Garollo, E., Measey, J. & Neam, K.
Listed as Least Concern due to its overall wide distribution and presumed large population. However, certain sites where this species occurs, particularly coastal KwaZulu-Natal, are experiencing ongoing habitat transformation which may seriously impact on long-term population viability. Its area of occupancy (AOO) may therefore be prone to continuing decline and the species should therefore be carefully monitored. Furthermore, should the two subspecies be spilt in the future, this would have implications for conservation status. Since the taxa contained within this complex have different geographical ranges, and possibly differing ecological requirements, protection plans should be precisely defined in order to increase their impact on target populations.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species, which is endemic to South Africa, occurs as two subspecies: Afrixalus spinifrons spinifrons and A. s. intermedius. The nominate subspecies occurs at low to intermediate altitudes (below 700 m asl) in KwaZulu-Natal; the latter occurs at altitudes up to 1,500 m asl in western KwaZulu-Natal, between the midlands and foothills of the Drakensberg, and in the Eastern Cape Province. According to Pickersgill (2007), A. s. spinifrons and A. s. intermedius appear to intergrade on the escarpment at about 700 m asl. Tarrant (2012) showed that, according to molecular, acoustic and morphological analyses, the Eastern Cape subpopulations of this species should be referred to A. s. intermedius, instead of A. s. spinifrons as previously thought.
Countries occurrence:
South Africa (Eastern Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:58714.4Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:76318.18
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1500
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is difficult to detect, but it is known to be doing well at some sites where it appears to be abundant. The southern Eastern Cape subpopulation is scarce and very difficult to detect (Venter and Conradie 2015, J. Tarrant pers. comm. August 2016) and this might be due to the fact that these subpopulations are on the edge of the species’ distribution. Subpopulations in Silaka Nature Reserve, near Port St. Johns in the Eastern Cape, occur in abundance (Venter and Conradie 2015), as do populations of Afrixalus spinifrons intermedius in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands (J. Tarrant pers. comm. August 2016). Coastal populations of A. s. spinifrons are less abundant (J. Tarrant pers. comm. August 2016).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species inhabits Coastal Bushveld-Grassland and Moist Upland Grassland in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape Provinces. It has been found also in degraded forest (Trimble and van Aarde 2014). Afrixalus spinifrons spinifrons breeds in standing water (including dams and ponds), sedge beds and grassy wetlands. Afrixalus spinifrons intermedius occurs in marshes, dams, floodplains and riverbanks and females and juveniles of the subspecies can be found sunbathing in arum lilies during the day (Pickersgill 1996, 2007). Species in this genus are commonly referred to as Leaf-folding Frogs owing to their unique method of oviposition, whereby between 20 and 50 eggs are deposited along a leaf margin, which is sealed by the male to create a leaf nest. Tadpoles emerge after about five days, drop into the water below and complete metamorphosis after approximately six weeks (Pickersgill et al. 2004). Breeding occurs between August and February for A. s. spinifrons and September and January for A. s. intermedius (Pickersgill et al. 2004). Males call from emergent vegetation, usually close to the water’s surface, in choruses of between 4 and 20 individuals between sunset and 03:00 (Backwell and Passmore 1991).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

There are no records of this species being utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Many of the historical sites of this once common species have disappeared under development (Pickersgill et al. 2004, Pickersgill 2007). Certain subpopulations, especially in coastal KwaZulu-Natal, are affected by loss of wetlands. This habitat loss is a result of urban and recreational development and direct drainage of wetlands for afforestation, especially Eucalyptus plantations and agricultural activities, including sugarcane (J. Tarrant pers. comm. August 2016). Other threats include pesticides and overgrazing or trampling by livestock. Coastal populations may be at higher risk than those inland due to heavier development pressure along the KZN coastline. Afrixalus spinifrons intermedius has been highlighted as having particular conservation significance for KwaZulu-Natal since it is endemic to the province (Armstrong 2001). 

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Conservation Actions
Although there are many threats to individual sites, the species as a whole is not considered to require conservation effort at this time. Afrixalus spinifrons intermedius occurs in the Khahlamba-Drakensberg National Park, Silaka Nature Reserve (Venter and Conradie 2015) and Hluleka Nature Reserve (Venter and Conradie 2015). Afrixalus s. spinifrons occurs in a number of coastal protected areas.

Research Needed
Additional molecular work is required to to clarify taxonomic boundaries. Because the ecological divergence and differences in geographical distribution between species of this complex could influence the relative conservation efforts, a clear description of their taxonomic status is necessary by way of various independent criteria. Monitoring of breeding sites is recommended.

Citation: IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG). 2016. Afrixalus spinifrons. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T56078A77160331. . Downloaded on 25 May 2018.
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