Surinam Toad

(Pipa pipa)




Facts about this animal

The Surinam Toad, with a size of 12-20 cm, has a large triangular head, small eyes with rounded pupils, and nostrils found at the end of two narrow tubes on the snout. The body is flat, brown or olive-colored, and covered by many tubercles giving it the general appearance of a dead leaf.


The front limbs are short and weak and the hind limbs are long, strong and webbed. It is entirely aquatic living on the muddy bottom of tropical rivers, returning to the surface for air generally every half hour. They can endure however long submersion (over an hour) without surfacing for air (presumably by drawing some oxygen from the water). Like fish, they have lateral-line systems, which detect fine pressure changes in the water.


Using star-shaped tactile organs on its fingertips to detect food, the tongueless Pipa pipa lunges at its prey, consisting mostly of invertebrates, but also worms and crustaceans. The Surinam Toad breeds when water levels rise and the water temperature drops.


The males call to the females by clicking underwater. At this point, the animals become very active and quiver when they come into contact with each other. The males grab the females by the hind legs and they swim together, turning somersaults. When the pair reaches the water's surface, the female swims with her back to the surface and deposits between 60 and 100 eggs. During the process of mating the male fertilizes the eggs and then attaches them to the female's back. The skin of the female then encloses the fertilized eggs.


Larval development occurs within the egg and fully metamorphosed individuals approximately 2 cm in length emerge from incubation after 3 to 4 months. Initially the young have trouble diving and remain near the surface of the water. They can immediately begin snapping at food.

Did you know?
Reproduction in Pipa pipa includes direct development of the young; there is no larval stage. The female carries the eggs in a honeycomb structure on her back until they complete development and emerge as miniature adults. The eggs adhere only to the female's back, possibly due to a cloacal secretion. They do not stick to the male's belly clasping the female when mating, nor to other eggs already on the female's back. In the hours after fertilization, the eggs sink into the female's skin. Skin grows around the eggs, which become enclosed in a cyst with a horny lid. During development, the young grow temporary tails, which are apparently used in the uptake of oxygen. After 12-20 weeks, the young emerge as tailless flat frogs shaped like their parents, except that they are only 2 cm in length. They are, however, fully developed except for bifurcation of the lobes on the fingertips. The young usually emerge from the female's back at the time of molting, that is, when the mother sheds her skin.


Name (Scientific) Pipa pipa
Name (English) Surinam Toad
Name (French) Pipa
Name (German) Grosse Wabenkröte
Name (Spanish) Aparo, Rana comun de celdillas
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Stan Shebs



Range Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela
Habitat Found in slow flowing watercourses, backwater of streams, and ponds and pools in tropical rainforest with muddy bottoms.
Wild population It is not seriously threatened, but local populations are probably impacted by habitat loss and degradation due to logging, agricultural expansion, and human settlement.The population trend is stable (Red List IUCN 2012)
Zoo population 169 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Surinam Toad


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 45 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Stan Shebs