Frog of the Week

Helmeted Water Toad (Calyptocephalella gayi)

Helmeted Water Toad
photo by flickr user Jardín Botánico Nacional, Viña del Mar, Chile

Common Name: Helmeted Water Toad, Chilean Giant Frog
Scientific Name: Calypotocephaella gayi
Family Name: Calyptocephalellidae
Location: Chile
Male Size: 4.7 inches (120 mm)
Female Size: 12.5 inches (320 mm)

The Helmeted Water Toad aka the Chilean Giant Frog is a large frog found in lowlands of central Chile. Impressively, they can weight up to 6 pounds! They are not a true toad from the family Bufonidae and generally lack most toad characteristics.

Sadly, they faces many threats and an uncertain future. Their habitat is being destroyed for the creation of more urban areas. They are also illegally caught and sold as food. Also, they are caught to be sold as pets to buyers around the globe. Non native species introduced into their habitat have also caused problems. Non-native trout, that were brought in for sport fishing, eat the juvenile frogs in great numbers. The African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis) has been introduced to the area and might be spreading Chytrid Fungus, a deadly disease, to the toad and other frogs around. For all these reasons, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes them as Vulnerable to extinction.

Chilean Helmeted Water Toad
photo by José Grau de Puerto Montt

The toad mates in the spring from September to October. Males gather in the shallows of permanent water bodies and start to call for the females. Once the female arrives, the male grasps her from behind in amplexus. Then, the female lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them. The female lays between 1,000 to 10,000 eggs! They are able to lay so many due to their large size. The eggs hatch into tadpoles around 3 weeks after being laid. Then, they can take up to 3 years to complete their metamorphosis.

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