In southern Africa there are 14 species of rain frog. These are comical looking amphibians with their short limbs and rotund bodies. When observed from the front they appear to have a frown across their face. The bushveld rain frog is a common species but only found in southern Africa where it inhabits the savanna, open grasslands and temperate forests.
If attacked the bushveld rain frog will inflate its body to intimidate predators and to lodge itself in its burrow. This behaviour gives it its Afrikaans name, blaasop, meaning “puff up”.
Unlike most frogs the bushveld rain frog does not need pools of water for breeding. Instead the mating pair, whilst coupled, will dig backwards 30 to 40 cm into the soil. The female will then lay her eggs in the burrow.
Bushveld rain frogs have rounded bodies, short legs and the female is larger than the male, all of which make mating difficult. The solution is for the female to secrete a glue-like substance which secures the male in position. They are stuck like this until the female secretes a reversing agent.
The female bushveld rain frog will lay 45 eggs in a chamber under the ground. These eggs are in a larger liquid filled jelly case which is home to the tadpoles when they hatch. They develop in this jelly feeding on a yolk sack until they develop into 3 to 6 cm froglets.
The bushveld rain frog will spend the winter underground in a burrow. But once the spring/summer rains come and soften the ground they will dig themselves out.
The bushveld rain frog is short and rounded with a small head, so much so it is hard to differentiate it from its body. This gives rise to the scientific name, Breviceps which means “short head”.
The bushveld rain frog is a specialist digger. They have short and stout limbs with webbed back feet like spades and a hardened protrusion on the heel of their hind foot called a metatarsal tubercle. These adaptations enable the frog to dig backwards some 50 cm into the ground.