Main Banner
Browse Species

Nelsonophryne aterrima Gunther 1901

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)

Common name

Costa Rica Nelson Frog



Species description based on Savage (2002). A very robust frog with short arms adn legs, and a small, pointed head (males to 61 mm, females to 67 mm).


The dorsum is smooth and uniformly black or very dark grey in coloration.


The ventral surface is dark brown.


The eye is black.

Life history

Breeding season

Breeding most likely occurs at least during the early part of the rainy season (Savage 2002).


Eggs are black and yellow, and up to 80 may be deposited in shallow, water-filled depressions in the forest (Savage 2002).


Tadpoles grow quite large (Savage 2002). The coloration is dark brown, except for the tail fins, which are clear (Savage 2002). The body is oval-shaped, with a long, thin tail (Savage 2002). The mouth is small and is directly forward, rather than dorsally or ventrally (Savage 2002). The tadpole has been described in detail by Donnelly, de Sa, and Guyer (1990).

Ecology behavior and evolution


Nelsonophryne atterima inhabits leaf litter and burrows underground (Savage 2002). It is sometimes encountered under fallen logs or other debris (Savage 2002).


Unknown (Savage 2002).


2N = 26 (Leon-Azofiefa 1970)

Taxonomy and systematics



Gunther 1901


Gastrophryne aterrima, Glossotoma aterrimum, Microhyla aterrima

Type locality

Costa Rica

Habitat and distribution


Lowland and premontane forest to 1600 m.


Colomiba, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama


Nelsonophryne aterrima distribution
Distrubution map (IUCN)


Carvalho, ALD. 1954. A preliminary synopsis of the genera of American microhylid frogs. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 555: 1-19.

Donnelly, MA, de Sa, RO, and C Guyer. 1990. Description of the tadpoles of Gastrophryne pictiventris and Nelsonophryne aterrima (Anura: Microhylidae), with a review of morphological variation in free-swimming microhylid larvae. American Museum Novitates 2976: 1-19.

Frost, DR. 1987. A replacement name for Glossostoma Günther, 1900 (Anura: Microhylidae). Copeia 1987: 1025.

Goldberg, SR and CR Bursey. 2010. Helminth biodiversity of Costa Rican Anurans (Amphibia: Anura). Journal of Natural History 44(29-30): 1755 - 1787.

Günther, A. 1900. Biologia Centrali-Americana. Reptilia and Batrachia.

Günther, ACLG. 1901. Reptilia and Batrachia. Part 166.  In: Salvin, O and FD Godman (Ed.). Biologia Centrali Americana. Volume 7. R. H. Porter and Dulau and Co., London.

Ibáñez, R, F Solís, C Jaramillo, and AS Rand. 2000. An overwiew of the herpetology of Panama. In: Johnson, JD, RG Webb, and OA Flores-Villela. Eds. Mesoamerican Herpetology: Systematics, Zoogeography and Conservation. The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas.

Leenders, T. 2001. A Guide to Amphibians And Reptiles of Costa Rica. Zona Tropical, Miami.

León-Azofeifa, PE. 1970. Report of the chromosome numbers of some Costa Rican anurans. Revista de Biología Tropical 17(1): 119-124.

Lips, K and JM Savage. 1996. Key to the Known Tadpoles (Amphibia: Anura) of Costa Rica. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 31(1): 17-26

Parker III, TA and JL Carr. 1992. Status of forest remnants in the Cordillera de la Costa and adjacent areas of southwestern Ecuador. RAP Working Papers 2: 1-172.

Parker, HW. 1927. The brevicipitid frogs allied to the genus Hypopachus. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 187: 1-6.

Parker, HW. 1934. A Monograph of the Frogs of the Family Microhylidae. London: Trustees of the British Museum.

Ruiz-Carranza, PM, MC Ardila-Robayo, and JD Lynch. 1996. Lista actualizada de la fauna de Amphibia de Colombia. Revista de la Academia Colombiana de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales: 365-415.

Savage, JM. 2002. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Herpetofauna between two Continents, between two Seas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Watling, JI and MA Donnelly. Seasonal patterns of reproduction and abundance of leaf litter frogs in a Central American rainforest. Journal of Zoology 258(2): 269-276.

Duellman, WE. 1966. The Central American herpetofauna: an ecological perspective. Copeia 1966 (4): 700-719

Additional resources