Fun Xenopus Facts For Kids

Divya Raghav
Jan 29, 2023 By Divya Raghav
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta
One of the most interesting Xenopus facts is that they are also known as African clawed frogs, or Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.9 Min

The word Xenopus mostly commonly refers to the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), also known by the names African clawed toad, platanna, or African claw-toed frog. These amphibians belong to the Pipidae genus of African aquatic frogs. Their name comes from three claws on their hind feet that are mainly used to rip apart their prey.

The species are spotted in induced populations across sub-Saharan Africa, South and North America, Asia, and Europe. The Pipidae genus primarily contains toothless, tongueless, fully aquatic animals like the Xenopus that, using their front feet and an inbuilt pump, suck prey right in and swallow them whole.

Pipidae like this clawed frog are scavengers that consume almost everything, dead or alive, rotting, or even organic waste. They also have strong hind legs that allow them to lunge and swim for their food and tear big bits of food with their claws.

They don't have external eardrums. Instead, they rely on subcutaneous cartilaginous discs toward the same effect. They hunt for food with their delicate claw-like fingers and keen sense of smell.

In the wild, the Xenopus laevis can be found in wetlands, rivers, and lakes throughout sub-Saharan Africa's semi-arid or arid regions. Both Xenopus laevis and Xenopus muelleri can be found along the western edges of the Great African Rift.

This frog is well-known in sub-Saharan Africa and is used as a major source of protein and as fertility medication in a few cultures. However, the ingestion of frog legs from frogs that have consumed insects containing cantharidin has been related to two outbreaks of priapism.

If you enjoy these clawed frog facts, do also read through our other articles on the African clawed frog or the common toad.

Xenopus Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Xenopus?

The Xenopus clawed frog is a sub-Saharan African species of highly aquatic frogs.

What class of animal does a Xenopus belong to?

This species belongs to the class of Amphibians.

How many Xenopuses are there in the world?

The current exact Xenopus population is unknown. However, we do know that their population is not currently under any significant threat. There are several sub-species of the Xenopus like the western clawed frog, Uganda clawed frog, albino clawed frog, and dwarf clawed frog, but the exact population of each of these is not known.

Where does a Xenopus live?

In arid and semi-arid areas, the Xenopus laevis can be found in wet, stagnant grassland streams and ponds. Green algae dominate the wetlands, which are normally devoid of any higher plant vegetation.

What is a Xenopus's habitat?

The Xenopus are native to most of Africa, including Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia, and Congo.

Who do Xenopuses live with?

While a typical Xenopus habitat is entirely aquatic, they have been seen migrating on land to surrounding bodies of water during droughts or in periods of heavy rain. Lakes, swamps, ponds, potholes, and artificial reservoirs, are common places to find these frogs.

Adult frogs are typically predators and scavengers, and since their tongues are mostly of no use, they rely on their short forelimbs to eat.

They make clicks (brief noises) underwater because they lack vocal sacs and males create a social hierarchy in which only one male clawed frog has the authority to make the mating call.

Females of several species make a release call, and females of Xenopus laevis make a second call when they are sexually receptive and when they are about to lay eggs. The Xenopus species are most active during the time of twilight.

How long does a Xenopus live?

Since the '50s, Xenopus laevis have been kept as both test subjects and pets. They are exceptionally strong and long-living animals, having been known to survive in captivity for up to 20 or even 30 years! They can live between five and  15 years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

This clawed frog achieves sexual maturity at about 10 to 12 months of age. Mating may occur any time of the year, but it is more frequent during spring and generally happens four times per year.

Males use vocalizations to lure females around evening time. Although the male lacks a vocal sac, rapid contractions of their intrinsic laryngeal muscles create a mating call. This mating call is made up of long and short trills that alternate.

The female responds with either an approval call (a rapping noise) or a rejection call (a ticking noise). Mating is more common at night when there are fewer distractions.

On the underside of his forearms and shoulders, the male grows mating pads. Females release hundreds of sticky eggs into the water, and each Xenopus egg normally attaches to plants or other anchors, one or two at a time.

The Xenopus laevis life cycle is similar to that of other frogs. The eggs go through a developmental process before these eggs become tadpoles.

During a period of around four to five days, a tadpole turns into a small froglet with a tail absorbed into its body. The development from eggs to embryos, to tadpole to frog takes between six and eight weeks.

What is their conservation status?

The population of these clawed frogs is increasing, and this African clawed frog is under no major threat right now. These species have a strong developmental cycle from egg to embryos, to tadpole, and finally frog. They are currently classified as Least Concern according to the IUCN.

Xenopus Fun Facts

What do Xenopuses look like?

The bodies of all Xenopus species are flattened, egg-shaped, and sleek, with very greasy skin (because of a protective mucus membrane). The frog's skin is smooth, but there is a stitch-like sensory organ on the lateral line. These frogs are all excellent swimmers with strong, fully webbed toes but no webbed fingers.

Three of each foot's toes have prominent black claws. The eyes of the frog are on the top of the head, facing upwards.

Their pupils are a square shape. They lack moveable eyelids, tongues (which are fully fixed to the mouth floor), and eardrums (similarly to Pipa pipa, the common Suriname toad). They also have no haptoglobin in their blood, unlike most other amphibians.


How cute are they?

Whilst these amphibians aren't really cute, many enthusiasts do find these amphibians quite captivating.

How do they communicate?

Xenopus frogs communicate through vocalization and cross-limb communication. Males vocalize to impress females, despite their lack of vocal cords. Rapid muscle contractions in the male's throat create a clicking noise, to which the female responds with either an approval call (a rapping noise) or a rejection call (a ticking noise).

How big is a Xenopus?

These frogs are about 4 in (12 cm) in length, around half the size of an average grey squirrel.

How high can a Xenopus leap?

The Xenopus is barely able to crawl, so it can hardly hop. Known to spend almost all of their time underwater, these amphibians only come to the surface to breathe.

How much does a Xenopus weigh?

Xenopus have a massive size difference, with the male weighing about 2.2 oz (64 g) and females having a weight of around 7 oz (200 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names assigned to male and female Xenopus frogs.

What would you call a baby Xenopus?

A baby of the X. laevis species is often referred to as a Xenopus tadpole or a polliwog. As well as Xenopus tadpoles, Xenopus eggs and larvae are termed differently depending upon the stage of Xenopus development that they are at.

What do they eat?

African clawed frogs (X. laevis) are solely filter feeders as tadpoles. As they grow into adult frogs they become scavengers, consuming crustaceans, marine insect eggs, water beetles, small fish, worms, freshwater snails, and even other tadpoles.

They also eat live, deceased, or decaying arthropods and other organic matter. They have a voracious appetite, and the Xenopus diet covers a wide range of prey.

Food is located using their sharp claws, their acute sense of smell, and the lateral line system where these frogs suck food into their mouths using their inbuilt pump. The claws on their hind feet rip apart larger pieces of food.

Are they dangerous?

Xenopus frogs pose no real threat to human beings.

Would they make a good pet?

African clawed frogs (X. laevis) make entertaining pets, but they must be treated with great care. When they're out of the water, their skin dries out easily because they're meant to be water frogs. Therefore, they should not be handled.

Did you know...

This vertebrate plays an important role in the treatment of human disease and the development and study of human biology. X. tropicalis and the X. laevis frogs are important model organisms for the human body, so they are used in the field of biology to help aid the development of cures to human disease.

Thanks to this role, the Xenopus animal can be described as a model organism in the world of biology.

Both sides of this frog's body have a lateral line. This delicate organ senses the presence of prey under the water's surface. To track and capture their prey under the water's surface, they also use their sense of smell and their claw-like fingers.

What is the common name for Xenopus laevis?

The common name for the Xenopus laevis animal is African clawed frog.

How to pronounce Xenopus laevis?

Xenopus pronunciation is 'zeno-pus'. Xenopus laevis pronunciation is 'zeno-pus lay-eh-vis'.

Can you touch a clawed frog?

Technically yes, but you should handle an African clawed frog (X. laevis) with care and you shouldn't take it out of its tank for more than eight minutes. African clawed frogs are small amphibians with a sensitive body, and it can cause them long-term harm if they are held out of their regular environment for too long.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other amphibians including the pool frog, or the red-eyed tree frog.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Xenopus coloring pages.

Xenopus Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Zoobenthos and zooplankton

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?


How Much Did They Weigh?

2.2-7 oz (64-200 g)

What habitat Do they Live In?

stagnant grassland ponds and streams

Where Do They Live?


How Long Were They?

4 in (12 cm)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis

What Do They Look Like?


Skin Type


What Are Their Main Threats?

japanese larval salamanders

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
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Written by Divya Raghav

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

Divya Raghav picture

Divya RaghavBachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

With a diverse range of experience in finance, administration, and operations, Divya is a diligent worker known for her attention to detail. Born and raised in Bangalore, she completed her Bachelor's in Commerce from Christ University and is now pursuing an MBA at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Bangalore. Along with her professional pursuits, Divya has a passion for baking, dancing, and writing content. She is also an avid animal lover who dedicates her time to volunteering for animal welfare causes.

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Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Deeti Gupta picture

Deeti GuptaBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

A detail-oriented fact-checker with a research-oriented approach. Devika has a passion for creative writing, she has been published on multiple digital publishing platforms and editorials before joining the Kidadl team. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from St.Xavier's College, Deeti has won several accolades and writing competitions throughout her academic career.

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