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Title: Ranidae  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Northern leopard frog, Grass frog, Goliath frog, Australian wood frog, Pool Frog, Bicolored frog, Fungoid frog, Growling grass frog, Florida bog frog, Levant Water Frog
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True frogs
Common frog, Rana temporaria
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Suborder: Neobatrachia
Superfamily: Ranoidea
Family: Ranidae
Rafinesque, 1814

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(but see text)

The true frogs, family Ranidae, have the widest distribution of any frog family. They are abundant throughout most of the world, occurring on most continents except Antarctica. The true frogs are present in North America, northern South America, Europe, Asia, Madagascar, Africa, and from the East Indies to New Guinea; the species native to Australia—the Australian wood frog (Hylarana daemelii)—is restricted to the far north.

Typically, true frogs are smooth and moist-skinned, with large, powerful legs and extensively webbed feet. The true frogs vary greatly in size, ranging from small—such as the wood frog (Rana sylvatica)—to the largest frog in the world, the goliath frog (Conraua goliath).

Many of the true frogs are aquatic or live close to water. Most species lay their eggs in the water and go through a tadpole stage. However, as with most families of frogs, there is large variation of habitat within the family. Those of the genus Tomopterna are burrowing frogs native to Africa and exhibit most of the characteristics common to burrowing frogs around the world. There are also arboreal species of true frogs, and the family includes some of the very few amphibians that can live in brackish water.[1]


The subdivisions of the Ranidae are still a matter of dispute, although many are coming to an agreement. Most authors believe the subfamily Petropedetinae is actually a distinct family called Petropedetidae.[2] The validity of the Cacosterninae is likewise disputed; they are usually merged in the Petropedetinae, but when the latter are considered a distinct family, the Cacosterninae are often awarded at least subspecific distinctness, too, and sometimes split off entirely. Still, there is general agreement today that the Mantellidae, which were formerly considered another ranid subfamily, form a distinct family. There is also a recent trend to split off the forked-tongued frogs as distinct family Dicroglossidae again.

In addition, the delimitation and validity of several genera is in need of more research (though much progress has been made in the last years). Namely how the huge genus Rana is best split up requires some more study.[3] While the splitting-off of several genera—like Pelophylax—is rather uncontroversial, the American bullfrogs formerly separated in Lithobates and groups such as Babina or Nidirana represent far more disputed cases.[4]

While too little of the vast diversity of true frogs has been subject to recent studies to say something definite, as of mid-2008, studies are ongoing and several lineages are recognizable.[5]


The subfamilies included under Ranidae, some sometimes treated as separate families, are:

  • Ceratobatrachinae (Malaysia, Philippines, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago)
  • Conrauinae (Africa)
  • Dicroglossinae
  • Micrixalinae (India)
  • Nyctibatrachinae (Western Ghats, India; Sri Lanka)
  • Petropedetinae (Africa)
  • Ptychadeninae (mainly Africa)
  • Raninae (cosmopolitan except for most of Australia and southern South America)
  • Ranixalinae (India)




  • Cai, Hong-xia; Che, Jing, Pang, Jun-feng; Zhao, Er-mi & Zhang, Ya-ping (2007): Paraphyly of Chinese Amolops (Anura, Ranidae) and phylogenetic position of the rare Chinese frog, Amolops tormotus. PDF fulltext
  • Cogger, H.G.; Zweifel, R.G. & Kirschner, D. (2004): Encyclopedia of Reptiles & Amphibians (2nd ed.). Fog City Press. ISBN 1-877019-69-0
  • Frost, Darrel R. (2006): Amphibian Species of the World Version 3 - Petropedetidae Noble, 1931. American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA. Retrieved 2006-AUG-05.
  • Frost, Darrel R. et al. (2006): The amphibian tree of life. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. Number 297. New York.
  • Gordon, Malcolm S.; PDF fulltext
  • Hillis, D.M. (2007) Constraints in naming parts of the Tree of Life. PDF fulltext
  • Hillis, D.M. & Wilcox, T.P. (2005): Phylogeny of the New World true frogs (Rana). PDF fulltext
  • Kotaki, Manabu; Kurabayashi, Atsushi; Matsui, Masafumi; Khonsue, Wichase; Djong, Tjong Hon; Tandon, Manuj & Sumida, Masayuki (2008): Genetic Divergences and Phylogenetic Relationships Among the Fejervarya limnocharis Complex in Thailand and Neighboring Countries Revealed by Mitochondrial and Nuclear Genes. 10.2108/zsj.25.381 (HTML abstract)
  • Pauly, Greg B., Hillis, David M. & Cannatella, David C. (2009): Taxonomic freedom and the role of official lists of species names. Herpetologica 65: 115-128.
  • Stuart, Bryan L. (2008): The phylogenetic problem of Huia (Amphibia: Ranidae). PDF fulltext

External links

  • Amphibian and Frogs of Peninsular Malaysia - Family Ranidae
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