Microhylid frog (Rhombophryne matavy)

Rhombophryne matavy
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Microhylid frog fact file

Microhylid frog description

GenusRhombophryne (1)

One of the newest amphibians known to science, Rhombophyrne matavy is found only in the Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve in northern Madagascar (2). This little-known, burrow-dwelling frog has a stout, teardrop-shaped body that is covered in tubercles on the upperside, and short, robust legs that it uses to dig itself into the moist ground (1) (2). Small eyes sit on the large, wide head, and prominent ridges run along the back across the rough, granular skin. Dark brown with irregular dark patches on the upperside, the underside is a contrasting lighter brown with a pinkish tinge on the chest, although the legs are darker, the throat is black and some of the digits are a yellow-cream. Rhombophyrne matavy is similar in appearance to its relative Rhombophryne testudo, but lacks barbels on the lower lip and has a unique call of repeated harmonic notes (2).

Male snout-vent length: 3.9 - 4.9 cm (2)

Microhylid frog biology

As Rhombophyrne matavy has been observed in the wild on only a handful of occasions, very little is known about its biology. However, this burrow-dwelling frog likely spends vast amounts of time underground, emerging only during rains to mate or forage for a variety of mid-sized insects. Males have been heard calling in unison during rains, both at night and day, a behaviour that probably serves to attract spectating females to mate (2). As is typical of other frogs within the Rhombophyrne genus, egg laying and development of the juveniles may take place within the burrow with both the adult male and female frogs providing a degree of care (2) (3).


Microhylid frog range

Discovered as recently as 2008, and formerly described in 2010, to date Rhombophyrne matavy is known only from the Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve in northern Madagascar (2).


Microhylid frog habitat

Rhombophyrne matavy inhabits burrows that it digs into the ground at the base of small trees within lowland tropical rainforest. After rainfall it has also been seen calling from patches of  ground with a thick layer of leaf litter (2).  


Microhylid frog status

Thought to be Endangered (2), but not yet officially classified by the IUCN.


Microhylid frog threats

Home to over 300 frog species, 99 percent of which are endemic, the island of Madagascar is of major importance for amphibian conservation (4). The Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve is of similar value as, in addition to Rhombophyrne matavy, two further frog species are endemic to this forest, while 25 regional endemics are also present (5). However, despite its immense importance and protected status, the Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve is threatened by encroaching agriculture, charcoal production, logging and livestock overgrazing (2) (5). This is of particular concern as the reserve is situated close to several sizeable towns, greatly increasing the risk of human disturbances (2).


Microhylid frog conservation

The Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve, home to Rhombophyrne matavy, is one of the oldest reserves in Madagascar, having been established in 1958. However, this protected area has been largely neglected and received little funding compared to neighbouring reserves. Consequently, efforts are urgently required to improve its management, with recommendations including the training of forest wardens, the monitoring of forest resource use and the development of ecotourism (2) (5) (6).


Find out more

To find out more about amphibian conservation, see:

For additional information on Rhombophyrne matavy, see:

  • D’Cruze, N., Köhler, J., Vences, M. and Glaw, F. (2010) A new fat fossorial frog (Microhylidae: Cophylinae: Rhombophyrne) from the rainforest of the Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve, northern Madagascar. Herpetologica, 66: 182-191.


Authenticated (01/06/2010) by Dr. Jörn Köhler, Abteilung Naturgeschichte – Zoologie, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, Friedensplatz 1, Darmstadt, Germany.



Fleshy projection near the mouth.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
A small, rounded, wart-like bump on the skin or on a bone.


  1. AmphibiaWeb (May, 2010)
  2. D’Cruze, N., Köhler, J., Vences, M. and Glaw, F. (2010) A new fat fossorial frog (Microhylidae: Cophylinae: Rhombophyrne) from the rainforest of the Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve, northern Madagascar. Herpetologica, 66: 182-191.
  3. Köhler, J., Glaw, F. and Vences, M. (1997) Notes on the reproduction of Rhombophyrne (Anura: Microhylidae) at Nosy Be, northern Madagascar. Revue Francaise d'Aquariologie et Herpetologie, 24: 53-54.
  4. WildMadagascar (May, 2010)
  5. D’Cruze, N., Köhler, J., Franzen, M. and Glaw, F. (2008) A conservation assessment of the amphibians and reptiles of Forêt d’Ambre Special Reserve, north Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation and Development, 3: 44-54.
  6. Andreone, F. and Luiselli, L.M. (2003) Conservation priorities and potential threats influencing the hyper-diverse amphibians of Madagascar. Italian Journal of Zoology, 70: 53-63.

Image credit

Rhombophryne matavy  
Rhombophryne matavy

© Jörn Köhler

Jörn Köhler
Department of Zoology
Hessisches Landesmuseum
Friedensplatz 1
Fax: +49 (6151) 165765


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