Cretan frog (Pelophylax cretensis)

Cretan frog
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Cretan frog fact file

Cretan frog description

GenusPelophylax (1)

As both its scientific and common names suggest, the Cretan frog (Pelophylax cretensisis) is found on the island of Crete, to which it is endemic (2) (3). Belonging to the Ranidae family, or ‘true frogs’, the Cretan frog has long, muscular legs, moist, smooth skin, webbed hind toes and a streamlined body. as with other members of the family, it also has a pointed snout (3).

The Cretan frog is considered a medium-sized frog when compared with other western Palearctic water frog species (2) (3).

The Cretan frog is generally light grey to brown and mottled with brown or olive-grey spots on its back, while the throat and underside of the body are whitish-grey. Occasionally, the upperparts of the Cretan frog may be grass-green with distinct brown spots. The insides of the hind legs are yellow, and the sides of the body may also have yellowish colouration. This species has a prominent dark brown fold of skin down the back (2).

The calls of the Cretan frog are produced in a long series, and consist of many short bursts and intervals. The male Cretan frog has two dark grey vocal sacs, which create the characteristic croaking calls (3).

Length: up to 6.3 cm (2)

Cretan frog biology

During the breeding season, the territorial male Cretan frog develops rough, swollen pads on its ‘thumbs’ in order to grip the female while mating. Seldom found far from water, the Cretan frog lays its eggs within the water bodies it inhabits, which is where the eggs will then develop (1) (3).

Like other Ranidae species, the Cretan frog has a streamlined body which is adapted for swimming and jumping, its primary forms of locomotion (3).


Cretan frog range


Cretan frog habitat

The Cretan frog is typically found in lowlands below elevations of 100 metres, where it favours slow-moving water bodies such as rivers, streams, lakes and marshes (1).


Cretan frog status

The Cretan frog is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1)

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Cretan frog threats

The habitat of the Cretan frog is under severe threat, being of poor quality, extremely fragmented and decreasing in size. Water is being extracted for agriculture, drying out water bodies and leaving the Cretan frog without the necessary means to eat, reproduce or live. The size of the habitat fragments are also decreasing due to new developments for the tourism industry as well as other infrastructure development (1).

The American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) has been introduced to Crete and may be out-competing the Cretan frog for resources such as food and breeding sites (1).


Cretan frog conservation

The Cretan frog occurs in many protected areas, although some of these are not currently well managed or protected correctly for conserving species. Further research and improved habitat management are vital for the Cretan frog’s future survival (1).

This species is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention, which provides guidelines to protect the flora and fauna of Europe (4).


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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Palaearctic region
The region that includes Europe, North Africa, most of Arabia, and the part of Asia to the north of the Himalayan-Tibetan barrier.
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
  2. Beerli, P. Hotz, H., Tunner, H., Heppich, S. and Uzzell, T. (1994) Two new water frog species from the Aegean islands Crete and Karpathos. (Amphibia, Salientia, Ranidae). Notulae Naturae, 470: 1-9.
  3. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University, Oxford.
  4. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (November, 2011)

Image credit

Cretan frog  
Cretan frog

© Jan Van Der Voort

Jan Van Der Voort
Antoon Wolfsstraat 24/1


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