Red-belly toad (Melanophryniscus dorsalis)

Synonyms: Dendrophryniscus stelzneri dorsalis, Melanophryniscus stelzneri dorsalis
GenusMelanophryniscus (1)
SizeMale snout-vent length: 20.5 - 24.2 mm (2)
Female snout-vent length: 23.1 - 24.8 mm (2)

Melanophryniscus dorsalis is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A little-known amphibian found only across a narrow coastal strip in Brazil, Melanophryniscus dorsalis is a member of a genus known as the red-belly toads. Named for the striking red markings on the underparts, these toads have a robust body, a broad head, and shallow warts and spines on the upperparts and flanks. There are also scattered spines on the skin of the head (2). 

Melanophryniscus dorsalis is a ground colour on the upperparts with a distinct, fragmented, bright red stripe running along the back. There are two small, pale yellow blotches at the corners of the mouth and there are variable pale yellow spots on the chest, belly, and undersides of the forearms and thighs. The legs of Melanophryniscus dorsalis are slender with narrow, rounded tips on the digits, which lack webbing (2).

Occurring along a very narrow coastal strip in southern Brazil, Melanophryniscus dorsalis is only found in the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande de Sul (1) (3) (4).

Melanophryniscus dorsalis inhabits sand dunes and nearby areas, and reproduces in temporary pools, up to 20 metres above sea level (1) (3).

Due to a dearth of field studies, there is almost no information available on the ecology and reproduction of Melanophryniscus dorsalis.

With almost 800 species, Brazil has the greatest diversity of amphibians in the world. However, a large number of these species are classified as threatened with extinction, the majority of which occur in the Atlantic forest (5), a diverse and unique mix of vegetation that forms a relatively narrow strip down the eastern coastline of South America (6). The main threat to amphibians in Brazil is the destruction of their habitats through deforestation, conversion into agricultural land, mining, wildfires, infrastructure development and urbanisation (5). 

Like Brazil’s other threatened amphibians, Melanophryniscus dorsalis is also suffering from a continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat. Its populations are suspected to have undergone a significant decline in recent years. It was previously collected rather extensively during surveys, but there have only been a few collections recently. The main threat to this species’ habitat is conversion to tourist beaches, urbanisation, and off-road recreational vehicle use (1) (3).

Brazilian amphibian conservation policies include legal instruments, such as the List of Threatened Species, and the selection of conservation priority areas in all of Brazil’s major biomes. There is still limited information on the geographic distributions and the natural history and ecology of many of the country’s amphibians, but there are a number of important regional studies underway (5). 

Melanophryniscus dorsalis has not been the target of any known conservation measures, but it occurs in Guarita Municipal Park. There is, however, a need for improved protection of this species’ habitat at other sites in which it occurs (1) (3).

To find out more about amphibian conservation, see:

For information on conservation projects in the Atlantic forest, see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2010)
  2. Cruz, C.A.G. and Caramaschi, U. (2003) Taxonomic status of Melanophryniscus stelzneri dorsalis (Mertens, 1933) and Melanophryniscus stelzneri fulvoguttatus (Mertens, 1937) (Amphibia, Anura, Bufonidae). Boletim do Museu Nacional, 500: 1-11.
  3. Stuart, S.N., Hoffmann, M., Chanson, J., Cox, N., Berridge, R., Ramani, P. and Young, B. (Eds.) (2008) Threatened Amphibians of the World. International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland and Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A. Lynx Editions, Barcelona, Spain.
  4. Frost, D.R. (2009) Amphibian Species of the World: An Online Reference. American Museum of Natural History, New York. Available at:
  5. Silvano, D.L. and Segalla, M.V. (2004) Conservation of Brazilian amphibians. Conservation Biology, 19: 653-658.
  6. Conservation International Biodiversity Hotspots – Atlantic forest (January, 2011)