Epirus water frog (Pelophylax epeiroticus)

Epirus water frog
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Epirus water frog fact file

Epirus water frog description

GenusPelophylax (1)

A moderately large member of the Ranidae family or ‘true frogs’, the Epirus water frog (Pelophylax epeiroticus) has a ‘typical’ frog body shape. As in other Ranidae species, the legs are long and muscular, the hind feet are webbed and the body is streamlined. These adaptations are advantageous for swimming and jumping, the primary forms of locomotion used by this species (3).

The Epirus water frog has a light green stripe running down the spine, surrounded by irregularly shaped dark green spots. The underside of both the male and female Epirus water frog is white, with dark bands on the thighs, and yellow hind flanks. This species has folds of skin extending along the back, but these are less prominent than in closely related species such as the Eurasian marsh frog (Pelophylax ridibundus(2) (4).

The Epirus water frog has closely-set eyes, a pointed snout and the male has vocal sacs at the corners of its mouth, which are usually olive in colour, but turn grey during the mating season (2).

Pelophylax epeirotica, Rana epeirotica.
Male length: up to 7.4 cm (2)
Female length: up to 8.3 cm (2)

Epirus water frog biology

During the breeding season of the Ranidae family, the male occupies a territory, warning away other males and attracting potential mates. It also develops rough pads on its ‘thumbs’, which can grip onto the female while mating (3). The breeding and larval development of the Epirus water frog occurs in the waterbodies it occupies (1).

Unlike closely related species, the Epirus water frog has a surprising technique when trying to escape a predator, usually fleeing onto land rather than into water (2).

The Epirus water frog shares many of its habitats with the Eurasian marsh frog (Pelophylax ridibundus), and cross-species mating can sometimes occur, leading to hybridisation between the two species (2)


Epirus water frog range

The Epirus water frog is endemic to southern Albania and north-western Greece, including the island of Kerkyra (1) (2) (4).


Epirus water frog habitat

A mainly aquatic species, the Epirus water frog inhabits the lower reaches of still or slow-moving water bodies, such as rivers, canals and marshes, often close to rich vegetation on the banks. In Albania, this species occurs in lowlands, from sea level up to elevations of 500 metres (1) (2).


Epirus water frog status

The Epirus water frog is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Epirus water frog threats

The Epirus water frog is under threat due to habitat destruction and alteration, with much of its habitat subject to human pressure, such as the drainage of wetlands for urbanisation, tourism and upstream agriculture. Water pollution is also a threat to populations close to agricultural areas, which are vulnerable to pesticides and fertilisers leaching into water bodies. With this species being so dependent on water, many populations have become locally endangered. It is not known whether the Epirus water frog will be able to adapt to the changes in its habitat (1) (2).

In addition to these threats, the Epirus water frog is collected in extremely large numbers for commercial purposes for food, the pet trade and private collections (1) (2).


Epirus water frog conservation

The Epirus water frog is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention, which aims to preserve wild fauna and flora in their natural habitats within Europe (5). This species is not known to occur in any protected areas, although it may occur in the Amvrakikos Gulf in north-western Greece. Stricter guidelines need to be enforced to ensure the Epirus water frog is harvested in a sustainable way (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Cross-breeding between two different species or subspecies.
Of or relating to the immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a group.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
  2. AmphibiaWeb - Rana epeirotica (October, 2011)
  3. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Tree of Life Web Project - Rana epeirotica (October, 2011) 
  5. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (October, 2011)

Image credit

Epirus water frog  
Epirus water frog

© Mark-Oliver Rödel

Mark-Oliver Rödel


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