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The Natural History and Captive Care of the Smokey Jungle Frog – Part 2

Smokey Jungle FrogPlease see Part 1 of this article for information on the natural history, amazing reproductive biology (including terrestrial nesting) and captive breeding of the Smokey Jungle Frog (a/k/a South American Bullfrog, Leptodactylus pentadactylus).


The hefty, robust adults are capable of taking quite large prey, including small birds, snakes, other frogs, mice and other rodents, scorpions and tarantulas as well as earthworms, roaches, moths and other invertebrates.

Smokey Jungle Frogs they are one of the few animals known to consume the highly toxic Poison Frogs, Dendrobates spp.

I’ve had good success with a diet comprised largely of earthworms, roaches, crickets and wild-caught insects (please see my article on Collecting Feeder Insects).  I use shiners and crayfishes as a calcium source, but a pink mouse may be offered every 6-8 weeks if desired.

Smokey Jungle Frogs are hunted by a variety of predators, including larger members of their own species, snakes, tegus, coatis, caiman and, in some parts of their range, people.


The Smokey Jungle Frog is long-lived once adulthood is reached, with 15- year-old wild individuals on record.  Captive longevity exceeds 20 years.

Similar Species

While a number of the 100+ described species in the family Leptodactylidae superficially resemble the Smokey Jungle Frog (i.e. the highly endangered Mountain Chicken, L. falax), the heavily-barred upper lip and paired dorso-lateral folds are distinctive.

Status in the Wild

Populations appear stable in those areas that have been surveyed, but this species is difficult to study due to the densely-vegetated habitats it prefers and its nocturnal ways.

Smokey Jungle Frogs are collected for human consumption within the Amazon Basin, and possibly elsewhere.


Smokey Jungle Frogs protect themselves by secreting copious amounts of mucus.  The mucus renders them quite slippery and also contains toxins that irritate on contact (causing rashes in people) and even via indirect contact… people in the same room with an agitated frog may sneeze and experience irritated and swollen eyes and mucus membranes.  Other frogs are killed on contact with mucus residue.

When threatened, Smoky Jungle Frogs face their adversaries, inflate their bodies and rear up and down in a series of push-ups, thereby exposing the dorsal toxin glands to the enemy. They also emit loud, un-nerving screams when captured – inexperienced zoo keepers invariably drop the frogs upon hearing it!

Males will strike at an enemy with their powerful forearms and spike-tipped thumbs (please see Part 1).  They generate a considerable amount of pressure when doing this – enough, in my experience, to make one wary of handling them carelessly.


Field research has shown Smoky Jungle Frogs maintain an accurate map of their surroundings, and return to their burrows via a straight, direct path when displaced.  The mechanics of this process are not yet understood.


Further Reading

Read more about this frog’s care and natural history on the website of the World Association of Zoos.

Video of Smokey Jungle Frog defense posture and feeding behavior.

Smokey Jungle Frog image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by D. Gordon E. Robertson


  1. avatar
    Daniel Rodriguez

    My Leptodactylus have been eating this diet (the one in the post) during the last month or so but I raised them since they were tadpoles so durying the first weeks i fed them with non flying fruit flies.

    • avatar

      Hello Daniel, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Nice to hear from you again…great tip, I think insects must be important to them in the wild, and very beneficial for captives; please let me know of any other food trials you’ve done.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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