Heleophrynidae Noble, 1931

Class: Amphibia > Order: Anura > Family: Heleophrynidae
7 species

Heleophryninae Noble, 1931, Biol. Amph.: 498. Type genus: Heleophryne Sclater, 1898.

Heleophrynidae Hoffman, 1935, Soöl. Navors. Nas. Mus. Bloemfontein, 1: 2. Type genus: Heleophryne Sclater, 1898. Coined apparently in ignorance of Noble, 1931.

HeliophrynidaeHeyer, 1975, Smithson. Contrib. Zool., 199: 48. Incorrect subsequent spelling.

HeliophryninaeLaurent, 1980 "1979", Bull. Soc. Zool. France, 104: 417.

HeleophrynoideaDubois, 2005, Alytes, 23: 9. Superfamily.

English Names

Ghost Frogs (Frank and Ramus, 1995, Compl. Guide Scient. Common Names Amph. Rept. World: 51; Channing, 2001, Amph. Cent. S. Afr.: v).


Mountainous areas of the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces of Rep. South Africa, east through the KwaZulu-Natal midlands escarpment, Maluti Mountains, and along the Drakensberg mountains and western Swaziland to northeastern South Africa; northern highlands of Lesotho.


Heyer and Liem, 1976, Smithson. Contrib. Zool., 233, and Lynch, 1973, in Vial (ed.), Evol. Biol. Anurans: 139, considered Heleophrynidae to be a subfamily of Myobatrachidae (sensu lato) and the sister-taxon of Limnodynastinae (now Limnodynastidae). The connection of Heleophrynidae with Myobatrachidae (sensu lato) was supported by mitchondrial DNA (Ruvinsky and Maxson, 1996, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 5: 533-547). Haas, 2003, Cladistics, 19: 23-89, suggested on the basis of larval evidence that Heleophryne is distantly related to other frogs, but most likely outside of Neobatrachia. Hoegg, Vences, Brinkmann, and Meyer, 2004, Mol. Biol. Evol., 21: 1188-1200; San Mauro, Vences, Alcobendas, Zardoya, and Meyer, 2005, Am. Nat., 165: 590-595; Frost, Grant, Faivovich, Bain, Haas, Haddad, de Sá, Channing, Wilkinson, Donnellan, Raxworthy, Campbell, Blotto, Moler, Drewes, Nussbaum, Lynch, Green, and Wheeler, 2006, Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., 297; and Roelants, Gower, Wilkinson, Loader, Biju, Guillaume, Moriau, and Bossuyt, 2007, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 104: 887-892, provided evidence that Heleophrynidae is the sister taxon of all remaining Neobatrachia, confirming at least part of Haas' earlier suggestion. Pyron and Wiens, 2011, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 61: 543-583, and Zhang, Liang, Hillis, Wake, and Cannatella, 2013, Mol. Biol. Evol., 30: 1899–1915, confirmed the position of Heleophrynidae as the sister taxon of all remaining neobatrachians. Blackburn and Wake, 2011, In Zhang (ed.), Zootaxa, 3148: 39-55, briefly reviewed the taxonomic history of this family-group taxon.Vitt and Caldwell, 2014, Herpetology, 4th Ed., provided a summary of life history, diagnosis, and taxonomy. Channing, Rödel, and Channing, 2012, Tadpoles of Africa: 168–175, reported on comparative tadpole morphology. Channing and Rödel, 2019, Field Guide Frogs & Other Amph. Afr.: 52–55, provided brief accounts, photographs, and range maps for the species. Blotto, Pereyra, Grant, and Faivovich, 2020, Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., 443: 36, discussed possible morphological synapmorphies for the group, particularly of hand and foot morphology. Elias-Costa, Araujo-Vieira, and Faivovich, 2021, Cladistics, 37: 498–517, discussed the evolution of submandibular musculature optimized on the tree of Jetz and Pyron, 2018, Nature Ecol. & Evol., 2: 850–858, which provided morphological synapomorphies of this taxon. 

Contained taxa (7 sp.):

External links:

Please note: these links will take you to external websites not affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History. We are not responsible for their content.