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Allophryne ruthveni

David Cannatella
Containing group: Neobatrachia


Allophryne ruthveni is an enigmatic frog from the Guyanan region of South America. It is about 25-30 mm in snout-vent length, and calls from trees. Its skin is covered with evenly spaced, pointed spicules. Superficially, it resembles a hylid, but all hylids have claw-shaped terminal phalanges. The terminal phalanges of Allophryne are T-shaped. There are no fossils.

Phylogenetic Position of Allophryne ruthveni

The monophyly of Hylidae is questionable if Allophryne ruthveni is included. Although originally described as a leptodactylid (then called bufonids), Noble (1931) considered Allophryne to be an edentate Centrolenella, and thus transferred it to Hylidae, which at that time included centrolenids. An intercalary cartilage was a feature of Noble's Hylidae; his placement of Allophryne here indicated that this frog possessed such an element. Lynch and Freeman (1966), with reservation, referred Allophryne to Hylidae. Savage (1973) recognized a monotypic family Allophrynidae without explanation. Duellman (1975) reported that males call from vegetation over a pond, and that pigmented eggs were deposited in the water. He concluded that these characters supported placement in Hylidae. However, the oviposition site is plesiomorphic for Neobatrachia, and the male calling site is present in other treefrog groups such as centrolenids and hyperoliids. Laurent (1979) offered that Allophryne was a bufonid, but did not offer explicit evidence to support this. This placement was followed uncritically by Dubois (1984) and unfortunately found its way into a general treatment of amphibians (Halliday and Adler, 1986).

Inclusion of Allophryne in Hylidae rests largely on the presence of intercalary cartilages. Ford and Cannatella (1993) reported that they examined the fingers and toes of Allophryne in serial sections, and concluded that Allophryne cannot be characterized as having cartilaginous intercalary elements as occur in hylids and centrolenids (Howes and Davies, 1888). Allophryne has T-shaped, rather than claw-shaped, terminal phalanges. No hylids have T-shaped terminal phalanges, but these are present in many other groups, including Heleophryne, arthroleptines, eleutherodactyliines, dendrobatids, and hylodines (=elosiines), among others (Ford, 1989b). Ford and Cannatella (1993) concluded that the available data indicate only that Allophryne is a hyloid; the placement of Allophryne in any higher taxon except for Neobatrachia is misleading.


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About This Page

David Cannatella
University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to David Cannatella at

Page: Tree of Life Allophryne ruthveni. Authored by David Cannatella. The TEXT of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License - Version 3.0. Note that images and other media featured on this page are each governed by their own license, and they may or may not be available for reuse. Click on an image or a media link to access the media data window, which provides the relevant licensing information. For the general terms and conditions of ToL material reuse and redistribution, please see the Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Citing this page:

Cannatella, David. 1996. Allophryne ruthveni. Version 01 January 1996 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Allophryne_ruthveni/16939/1996.01.01 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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