Painted burrowing frog (Scaphiophryne gottlebei)

Painted burrowing frog
Loading more images and videos...

Painted burrowing frog fact file

Painted burrowing frog description

GenusScaphiophryne (1)

One of the most highly decorated of the Madagascan frogs, the painted burrowing frog (Scaphiophryne gottlebei) is a small, roundish, brightly coloured species with a distinctive white, red, green and black pattern on the back. The skin of the back is very smooth, but the skin of the grey belly is a little bit rough. The ears are inconspicuous, but the eyes are prominent. Adapted for both the underground and climbing lifestyles, the painted burrowing frog has horny tubercles on the underside of the hind feet to help with burrowing, and claws on the forefeet for clinging to vertical canyon walls (2). The tadpoles are very conspicuous, quite big, and blackish.

Also known as
Gottlebe’s narrow-mouthed frog, rainbow burrowing frog.
Male length: 20 – 30 mm (2)
Female length: 30 – 40 mm (2)

Painted burrowing frog biology

With adaptations for two apparently distinct lifestyles, the painted burrowing frog is known mainly for its underground lifestyle, and is thought to climb only to escape drowning in flash floodwater by finding small holes to rest in within the canyon walls of its habitat. Despite its webbed hind feet, the painted burrowing frog is a poor swimmer.

The tadpoles hatch in temporary rock pools and are thought to undergo metamorphosis relatively quickly since they must avoid being washed away by sudden heavy rains (2). Tadpoles feed upon the detritus they found in the sand of the small pools where they live. During the night they become very active, and occupy the whole water column (5). Adults consume insects (4).


Painted burrowing frog range

The painted burrowing frog is found at elevations of over 900 metres in the Isalo Massif, either within the national park of the same name, or in external areas (1).


Painted burrowing frog habitat

Inhabits open, rocky areas of dry forest, as well as hiding amongst stone crevices in canyons. The painted burrowing frog breeds in shallow, temporary pools within the canyons, although sometimes could be found in open areas (1).


Painted burrowing frog status

The painted burrowing frog is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Painted burrowing frog threats

Thousands of painted burrowing frogs are captured for the pet trade each year, and although the species is considered to be endangered, this is mainly as a result of its small range. It is locally abundant and has a high reproductive rate, most likely allowing fast recovery from minor reductions in population numbers. Sapphire mining operations near to the habitat of the painted burrowing frog are considered to be a threat to populations, and further potential threats include increasing tourist activity, and habitat loss from fire, wood extraction and over-grazing by livestock (1).


Painted burrowing frog conservation

Several populations of the painted burrowing frog occur in the Isalo National Park where the habitat is protected, but habitat loss elsewhere is likely and potentially dangerous to the remaining unprotected populations (1). Carefully regulated trade with a capture quota will prevent further decline of this spectacular species (1).

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

Find out more

For further information on the painted burrowing conservation:

Find out more about painted burrowing frog conservation projects:



Authenticated (07/02/2005) by Franco Andreone, Chair of DAPT/IUCN Madagascar.



An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
A small wart-like or angular swelling.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. AmphibiaWeb (September, 2010)
  3. CITES (December, 2004)
  4. Andreone, F. (2005) Pers. comm.
  5. Madagascan Burrowing Frogs FAQ (December, 2004)

Image credit

Painted burrowing frog  
Painted burrowing frog

© Nick Garbutt /

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Painted burrowing frog (Scaphiophryne gottlebei) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top