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Northern Darwin’s Frog

Rhinoderma rufum


The Northern Darwin’s frog is one of only two frogs in the world which exhibit ‘mouth brooding’ parental care, whereby the young undergo part of their development in the parent’s mouth. It is possible this species is now extinct.

Females lay their eggs on damp ground and, when the developing tadpoles start to wriggle in their egg capsules, the guarding male swallows them into his vocal sac. They stay until their jaws and digestive tracts are fully formed, where upon the male carries them to a stream to be released. The only other species known to perform this behaviour is the closely-related Darwin’s frog, which is also suffering population declines.

The Rhinodermatidae is a family that comprises the two Darwin frogs and another unusual EDGE species, Barrio’s frog. Darwin’s frogs split from Barrio’s frog around 40 million years ago, and together they diverged from all other amphibian lineages some 55 million years ago. In terms of mammalian evolutionary comparisons, they are as distantly related to their closest relatives as whales are to giraffes.

The Northern Darwin’s frog is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List and considered ‘Possibly Extinct’.  The frog has not been seen since 1981 and it could have been driven to extinction by habitat loss, climate change or disease, possibly the Chytrid fungus. Habitat loss through the planting of pine plantations and human expansion threatens much of the former and current range of the species. It is not known from any protected area, as there are none within its historical range.


  • Order: Anura
  • Family: Rhinodermatidae
  • Population: Possibly extinct
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 31-33mm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 6.39 (?)
ED Score: 36.38 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species occurs in Chile from Zapallar to Ramadillas, at elevations up to 500 m above sea level.

Habitat and Ecology

This species has been found in leaf litter in temperate mixed forests, and also in bogs surrounded by forests. Females lay clutches of 12-24 small eggs on moist ground leaf litter which is guarded by the male. The species feed on small insects and other small invertebrates and the frog is terrestrial and primarily day active.

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This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Other weather Wood plantations Invasive species

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at:

Claudio Soto-Azat

  • Project name: Saving the last mouth brooding frogs: is chytridiomycosis driving Darwin's frogs extinction?
  • Project site: Chile
  • Active: 2009 - 2010
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