Leptodactylidae are a diverse Family of frogs that probably diverged from other hyloids during the Cenozoic era, or possibly at the end of the Mesozoic. There are roughly 50 genera, one of which is Eleutherodactylus, the largest vertebrate genus, with over 700 species. In total, there are approximately 1100 leptodactylid species, most of which are widely distributed throughout Central and South America. The family is often considered paraphyletic and has no morphological synapomorphies. The family includes terrestrial, burrowing, aquatic, and arboreal members, inhabiting a wide range of different habitats.
Several of the genera within the Leptodactylidae lay their eggs in foam nests. These can be in crevices, on the surface of water, or on forest floors. These foam nests are some of the most varied among frogs. When eggs hatch in nests on the forest floor, the tadpoles remain within the nest, without eating, until metamorphosis. In the genus Eleutherodactylus, the eggs undergo direct development and hatch directly into miniature frogs, with no free-living tadpole stage.
The Leptodactylids are well represented in the fossil record, and one specimen from the genus Eleutherodactylus was wholly preserved in amber 37 million years ago.
ITEMS in the Family: Leptodactylidae