Sphaerotheca breviceps (Schneider, 1799)

Class: Amphibia > Order: Anura > Family: Dicroglossidae > Subfamily: Dicroglossinae > Genus: Sphaerotheca > Species: Sphaerotheca breviceps

Rana breviceps Schneider, 1799, Hist. Amph. Nat.: 140. Syntypes: Including ZMB 3351 (2 specimens), according to Peters, 1863, Monatsber. Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin, 1863: 76. ZMB 55005 (formerly one of the lot of two under ZMB 3351) designated lectotype by Dahanukar, Sulakhe, and Padhye, 2017, J. Threatened Taxa, 9: 10271. Type locality: "Indes orientales"; "probablement de Tranquebar (Tamil Nadu; 11° 02′ N, 79° 51′ E)" according to Dubois, 1983, Alytes, 2: 164. 

Systoma brevicepsTschudi, 1838, Classif. Batr.: 86.

Pyxicephalus brevicepsGünther, 1864, Rept. Brit. India: 411.

Rana (Tomopterna) brevicepsBoulenger, 1920, Rec. Indian Mus., 20: 102; Dubois, 1981, Monit. Zool. Ital., N.S., Suppl., 15: 233; by implication.

Tomopterna brevicepsDeckert, 1938, Sitzungsber. Ges. Naturforsch. Freunde Berlin, 1938: 142.

Rana swani Myers and Leviton in Leviton, Myers, and Swan, 1956, Occas. Pap. Nat. Hist. Mus. Stanford Univ., 1: 7. Holotype: CAS-SU 15371, by original designation. Type locality: "Dharan, eastern Nepal, at an altitude of 1000 feet". Synonymy by Dubois, 2004, Alytes, 21: 178, and Jablonski, Masroor, and Hofmann, 2021, Diversity, 13 (216): 7.

Tomopterna swani — Dubois, 1976, Cah. Nepal., Doc., 6: 12.

Rana (Tomopterna) swani — Dubois, 1981, Monit. Zool. Ital., N.S., Suppl., 15: 233, by implication; Dubois, 1983, Alytes, 2: 165.

Tomopterna (Sphaerotheca) swani — Dubois, 1987 "1986", Alytes, 5: 57.

Rana (Tomopterna) breviceps brevicepsDubois, 1983, Alytes, 2: 166.

Tomopterna (Sphaerotheca) brevicepsDubois, 1987 "1986", Alytes, 5: 57.

Sphaerotheca brevicepsDubois, 1999, J. South Asian Nat. Hist., 4: 8; Vences, Glaw, Kosuch, Das, and Veith, 2000, Lourenço and Goodman (eds.), Diversité et Endéémisme à Madagascar: 232.

Sphaerotheca swani — Vences, Glaw, Kosuch, Das, and Veith, 2000, Lourenço and Goodman (eds.), Diversité et Endéémisme à Madagascar: 232; Dahanukar, Sulakhe, and Padhye, 2017, J. Threatened Taxa, 9: 10279. See comment regarding status. 

Sphaerotheca magadha Prasad, Dinesh, Das, Swamy, Shinde, and Vishnu, 2019, Rec. Zool. Surv. India, 119: 198. Holotype: ZSI/WRC/A/2178, by original designation. Type locality: "semi urbanized agricultural land of Nawadih village (N 24.4179; E 85.4680, 380 meters asl), Koderma, Jharkhand", India. Zoobank publication registration: 35DD2F1F-EF3E-43D6-8520-6E9677567394. Synonymy by Jablonski, Masroor, and Hofmann, 2021, Diversity, 13 (216): 7. See comment regarding status. 

English Names

Indian Burrowing Frog (Minton, 1966, Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., 134: 58; Schleich, Anders, and Kästle, 2002, in Schleich and Kästle (eds.), Amph. Rept. Nepal: 80; Daniels, 2005, Amph. Peninsular India: 241; Dinesh, Radhakrishnan, Gururaja, and Bhatta, 2009, Rec. Zool. Surv. India, Occas. Pap., 302: 35).

Burrowing Frog (Khan, 1979, Biologia, Lahore, 25: 42; Khan, 2002, Bull. Chicago Herpetol. Soc., 37: 161).

Punjab Bullfrog (Frank and Ramus, 1995, Compl. Guide Scient. Common Names Amph. Rept. World: 110).

Short-headed Burrowing Frog (Das and Dutta, 1998, Hamadryad, 23: 66; Daniels, 2005, Amph. Peninsular India: 241).

Clumsy-looking Burrowing Frog (Chanda, 2002, Handb. Indian Amph.: 212).

Burrowing Frog (Shrestha, 2001, Herpetol. Nepal: 88).

Olive Frog (Shrestha, 2001, Herpetol. Nepal: 88).

Band Sand Frog (Daniels, 2005, Amph. Peninsular India: 244; de Silva, 2009, Amph. Rep. Sri Lanka Photograph. Guide: 75).

Magadha Burrowing Frog (Sphaerotheca magadha [no longer recognized]: original publication). 

Dharan Bullfrog (Sphaerotheca swani [no longer recognized]: Frank and Ramus, 1995, Compl. Guide Scient. Common Names Amph. Rept. World: 110).

Carnatic Burrowing Frog (Dinesh, Radhakrishnan, Deepak, and Kulkarni, 2023, Fauna India Checklist, vers. 5.0 : 5).

Swani Burrowing Frog (Sphaerotheca swani [no longer recognized]: Dinesh, Radhakrishnan, Deepak, and Kulkarni, 2023, Fauna India Checklist, vers. 5.0 : 5).


Highly provisional: Eastern Nepal (Sunsari District), and central India to Maharashtra and to Jharikand and West Bengal, India, and likely into adjacent Bangladesh; records from Myanmar represent an unnamed species (see comment). Sri Lanka records probably are referrable to another species. 

Geographic Occurrence

Natural Resident: India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka


All literature prior to the revision of Dahanukar, Sulakhe, and Padhye, 2017, J. Threatened Taxa, 9: 10269–10285, probably is based on mixed samples of species, more of a concern in the north as opposed to the south of India) and should be used with caution (DRF). These authors also noted that the Myanmar records are based on some species other than Sphaerotheca breviceps. See accounts by Boulenger, 1920, Rec. Indian Mus., 20: 103, Minton, 1966, Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., 134: 58;  Dutta and Manamendra-Arachchi, 1996, Amph. Fauna Sri Lanka: 129–107, and Ray, 1999, Mem. Zool. Surv. India, 18: 50–54. Dubois, 1987 "1986", Alytes, 5: 57, regarded Rana swani as incertae sedis within Sphaerotheca or a synonym of one of the other species. Sarkar, Biswas, and Ray, 1992, State Fauna Ser., 3: 88–89, provided a brief account for West Bengal, India. Dutta, 1997, Amph. India Sri Lanka: 166–168, provided a range, systematic comments, and partial taxonomic bibliography. Dubois, 1999, J. South Asian Nat. Hist., 4: 8, suggested that Sphaerotheca breviceps is a small-sized species, closely related to, or conspecific with Sphaerotheca rolandae. For the large-sized species of South Asia, he suggested that the names Rana variegata Gravenhorst, 1829; Pyxicephalus fodiens Jerdon, 1853; Pyxicephalus pluvialis Jerdon, 1853; Sphaerotheca strigata Gunther, 1859; Rana dobsonii Boulenger, 1882; Tomopterna strachani Murray, 1884; Rana leuchorhynchus Rao, 1937; and Rana swani Myers and Leviton, 1956, are available. He also regarded Tomopterna maskeyi to be a provisional synonym of this large-size taxon, although none of the evidence to support this conclusion were presented in this publication and this taxon was subsequently resurrected. Biju, 2001, Occas. Publ. Indian Soc. Conserv. Biol., 1: 17, suggested that revision of this nominal species is needed. See brief account by Shrestha, 2001, Herpetol. Nepal: 88–89. Chanda, 2002, Handb. Indian Amph.: 142–143, 212–213, provided a brief account. Anders, 2002, in Schleich and Kästle (eds.), Amph. Rept. Nepal: 301–306, 313–315 provided a key and accounts, figures, and maps (as Sphaerotheca breviceps and Sphaerotheca swani) for the species in Nepal. Dubois, 2004, Alytes, 21: 176, noted that Sphaerotheca breviceps, Sphaerotheca maskeyi, and Sphaerotheca swani were junior synonyms of this species, which he asserted shows striking color pattern polymorphism and should be called Sphaerotheca pluvialis, without further explanation. See Shah and Tiwari, 2004, Herpetofauna Nepal: 73–76, for brief accounts (as nominal Sphaerotheca breviceps and Sphaerotheca swani). Daniels, 2005, Amph. Peninsular India: 241–244, provided an account. Mehta, 2005, in Alfred (ed.), Fauna W. Himalaya, Part 2: 270, reported the species in Himanchal Pradesh, India, without noting specific localities. Khan, 2006, Amph. Rept. Pakistan: 66–67, provided an account for Pakistan, although this account probably applies to Sphaerotheca maskeyi as currently understood. Glaw and Rosado, 2006, Herpetol. Rev., 37: 502, discussed the possibility of occurrence of this species in Maldives. Das and Dutta, 2007, Hamadryad, 31: 154–181, noted several larval descriptions of varying levels of completeness in the literature. de Silva, 2009, Amph. Rep. Sri Lanka Photograph. Guide: 75, provided a brief account and color photograph for Sri Lanka, although clearly this represents a species, likely Sphaerotheca pluvialis, other than Sphaerotheca breviceps as currently understood. Masroor, 2012, Contr. Herpetol. N. Pakistan: 67–68, provided an account for northern Pakistan. Sivaprasad, 2013, Common Amph. Kerala: 58–59, provided a brief account, photograph, and dot map for Kerala, India. Deuti, Sethy, and Ray, 2014, Rec. Zool. Surv. India, 114: 132, provided a  brief account for the Orissa population, India. Subba, Aravind, and Ravikanth, 2016, Check List, 13(1: 2033): 12, considered the presence of this species in Sikkim, India, to be doubtful. Dahanukar, Sulakhe, and Padhye, 2017, J. Threatened Taxa, 9: 10279–10280, reviewed the taxonomic history (of Sphaerotheca swani) and pictured the holotype. Prasad, Dinesh, Das, Swamy, Shinde, and Vishnu, 2019, Rec. Zool. Surv. India, 119: 207, suggested that records from Pakistan and Sri Lanka require genetic confirmation of their identification. See Dandekar, Sulakhe, and Padhye, 2020, Reptiles & Amphibians, 27: 390–396, for dot map confirmed by molecular markers. Deepak, Dinesh, Ohler, Shanker, Channakeshavamurthy, and Ashadevi, 2020, Zootaxa, 4885: 432, also noted that records other than from South India likely are attributable to other, more recently named, species. Mukherjee, 2021, Zoos' Print J., 36: 31–32, provided records  of nominal Sphaerotheca magadha from Purulia and Paschim Bardhaman districts, West Bengal, India. Gayen and Deuti, 2021, Rec. Zool. Surv. India, 121: 31–37, reported nominal Sphaerotheca magadha from Pashchim Bardhaman district, West Bengal, India. Khatiwada, Wang, Zhao, Xie, and Jiang, 2021, Asian Herpetol. Res., 12: 1–35, discussed the species (as Sphaerotheca swani) in Nepal. Jablonski, Masroor, and Hofmann, 2021, Diversity, 13 (216): 1–8, provided a densely-sampled molecular phylogeny of the species and places Sphaerotheca swani into the synonymy of Sphaerotheca breviceps, noted the Myanmar samples represented a separate, unnamed lineage, more closely related to Sphaerotheca pluvialis and provided a large number of genetically-confirmed localities. Rais, Ahmed, Sajjad, Akram, Saeed, Hamid, and Abid, 2021, ZooKeys, 1062: 165, discussed why early records of Sphaerotheca breviceps should be referred to Sphaerotheca maskeyiSrinivasulu and Kumar, 2022, J. Threatened Taxa, 14: 21268, reported the species from the state of Telangana, south-central India. Zug, 2022, Smithson. Contrib. Zool., 653: 24–25, discussed the Myanmar records, concluding that those populations remain unnamed. Raj, Vasudevan, Aggarwal, Dutta, Sahoo, Mahapatra, Sharma, Janani, Kar, and Dubois, 2023, Alytes, 39–40: 44–48, reported on larval morphology of genetically-confirmed specimens from Odisha, India. Deepak, Dinesh, Chetan Nag, Ohler, Shanker, Souza, Prasad, and Ashadevi, 2024, Zootaxa, 5405: 403, considered Sphaerotheca magadha to be conspecific with Sphaerotheca swani, but, on the basis of morphology, questioned the synonymy of Sphaerotheca swani (sensu lato) with Sphaerotheca breviceps, an action based solely on low 16s mtDNA distance. 

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