Frogs of Lebanon

Amphibians are characteristic terrestrial animals of wet places. Hence, A Rocha Lebanon completed three studies on the amphibians of Aammiq. Two in 2004 and 2005 for a general census, one in 2023 hoping to spot the rare and primitive painted frog (Latonia nigriventer). This last survey is still in progress. This article also benefits from Ramy Khashab’s updates and photographs resulting from his amazing field work (see his collection on Herpinglebanon).

Life began in water, and many terrestrial animals still have an initial stage in water. Can even the egg of Sauropsida (turtles, birds and reptiles) as well as the uterus of mammals be metaphorically considered as samples of the original water? Amphibians understand it literally. Since it is in water that life begins, they return to water to mate and lay eggs.

Arabian Tree frogs in Aammiq © ARL

What are Amphibians?

Amphibians are ectodermic (cold-blooded) animals characterized by their scaleless, often slimy skin. They developed a semi-aquatic lifestyle with most species reproducing in water and going through a gilled, larval stage (tadpoles) living in water before metamorphosing into air-breathing adults. Out of the period of mating, adult frogs use water bodies to hide from predators.

Adult amphibians are carnivorous (mainly insectivores), they actively hunt their prey of invertebrates as well as small vertebrates (rodents, lizards, etc.); while tadpoles of frogs and toads often feed on any organic matter they come across in water.

Progressive evolution of a marsh frog from tadpole to adult. The Marsh Frogs (Pelophylax bedriagae) female adults lay their eggs in large pools, these eggs are externally fertilized by the males and develop into small tadpoles (larvae). The tadpoles grow quickly, first feeding on plant matter and later becoming omnivorous. They metamorphose into miniature versions of their parents. First the two back legs appear followed by the front legs finally the tail disappears. © ARL

In Lebanon, eight species of amphibians have been recorded to date. These species belong to two Orders: Urodela (amphibians endowed with a tail, like salamanders), and Anura (whose adults are tailless, like frogs and toads) and five Families (Salamandridae, Bufonidae, Hylidae, Pelobatidae and Ranidae). They can be found all around Lebanon from high mountains to riversides all the way to the arid semi-desert in Northern Bekaa. Due to their sensitive nature, the numbers of amphibians are declining as a result of habitat loss (urbanization and agriculture), pollution of water bodies in which they reproduce in addition to many human-related factors.

Frogs and Toads (Anura)

Anura (the order of frogs and toads) are omnivorous, and their larva are limbless in their early stage (tadpoles). There are six species of the order present in Lebanon: Levant Water Frog (Pelophylax bedriagae), Middle East Tree Frog (Hyla savignyi), Arabian Tree Frog (Hyla felixarabica), Syrian Spadefood Toad (Pelobates syriacus), Variable Toad (Bufotes sitibundus) and the Caucasian Toad (Bufo verrucosissimus).

The distinction between frogs and toads is no more scientific since there is no common origin to all toads, which are frogs with short legs and warty skin. The model of the frogs may be the water frogs, also called true frogs, whereas the model of the toads is the genus Bufo, the true toads (see below).

Levant Water Frog

Scientific Name: Pelophylax bedriagae (former page)

Family: Ranidae

IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)

A widely distributed, majorly aquatic species of frogs that is common near permanent water bodies such as rivers, lakes, swamps and agricultural ponds. They are relatively big frogs with a vast variety of colors (ranging from brown to green), and patterns (dots and stripes). The species mainly gets active at night but is often seen sitting near water during daytime. They are opportunistic predators that will try to catch any prey they can swallow from insects to small vertebrates such as fish, lizards and other, smaller frogs. Females lay thousands of eggs between spring and early summer. The eggs are fertilized by males and hatch into tiny tadpoles a couple of weeks after being laid. Tadpoles take 60-70 days to metamorphose. During that period they feed on algae and other organic matter underwater. Like all amphibians they are highly sensitive to pollution (especially water) and habitat changes.

Two different colors of Levant water frogs. On the right, couple mating © Ramy Khashab
Two different colors of Levant water frog with stripes © ARL

Middle-East Tree Frog, Savignyi’s Tree Frog (former page)

Scientific Name: Hyla savignyi

Family: Hylidae

IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)

It is the more common species of the genus Hyla native to Lebanon. They are small, semi-arboreal frogs that can be often seen in sunny grasslands, fields, wet mountain slopes and gardens where they climb bushes and tall grasses to bask or hunt. The species has the ability to change their color from light green to almost yellow when they are on vegetation to brown and dark grey when they are on soil or in water for a while. The species are good jumpers due to their long back feet. They also have adhesive fingertips for climbing, as well as connected fingers used for swimming. During the breeding season females lay clutches of 200-300 eggs attached to algae underwater. Eggs hatch into small grey tadpoles around 10 days later. Tadpoles grow for 2-3 months before metamorphosing into tiny frogs. Like other small frog species, the Savignyi’s Tree Frogs are mainly insectivores.

Two different colors of Savigny’s tree frogs. © Ramy Khashab

Arabian Tree Frog

Scientific Name: Hyla felixarabic

Family: Hylidae

IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)

It is a species of small tree frogs very similar to the Savignyi’s Tree Frog (Hyla savignyi). Its presence was revealed in Lebanon in 2019 based on genetic data showing that the Bekaa population of tree frogs is actually Hyla felixarabica  (whereas Hyla savignyi is present along the coastal area and the Western side of Mount Lebanon). Both species are almost identical in appearance with some minor color differences and a rounder snout in Hyla felixarabica. Like the Hyla savignyi, females lay around 250 eggs in ponds and lakes. After 10 days they hatch into tiny tadpoles that metamorphose into small frogs 3 months later. Both tree frog species are highly affected by water pollution and the use of pesticides on plants which they use.

Two different colors of Arabian tree frogs © Ramy Khashab

Syrian Spadefoot (former page)

Scientific Name: Pelobates syriacus

Family: Pelobatidae

IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)

An uncommon species of amphibians found in Lebanon. It is mainly found in humid, rocky grasslands with permanent ponds and lakes where it can be often found buried in mud or hidden under rocks. The species is brown or grey with green spot and blotches covering its body similar to the Green Toad (Bufotes sitibundus). Unlike the Bufotes sitibundus the Spadefoot toad has smooth skin, vertical cat-like pupil and a small bony “spade” behind the first toe on both back legs. This “spade” is used by the toad to burry itself in mud and gives the species its name. It is mainly active at night during the wet season and remains burrowed underground throughout summer. Females lay a couple of thousand eggs in elongated slimy tubes. Tadpoles of the species are brown and noticeably large (up to 12 cm). Tadpoles are omnivorous and consume any organic matter they can find, whereas adults feed mainly on insects and molluscs.

Variable Green Toad

Scientific Name: Bufotes sitibundus

Family: Bufonidae

IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)

The variable green toad, a very common, widely distributed species of toad, can be found almost anywhere in Lebanon. It is highly adaptable to a large variety of habitats, from the Mediterranean seaside all the way to high mountains and arid semi-deserts. In this latter habitat, they benefit from temporary pools and mountain springs for breeding. Most eggs are laid in the spring and sometimes it is a race against time to develop before the pool or the spring dries up. The Green toad can even be found in urban areas as long as there is a place to breed. It is light brown in color with green spots and patches covering most of its body except the underside. The shape and shade of the green spots differ from one frog to another. The species also has two lumps behind the eyes that secret a milky poison as a defence mechanism when caught by a predator. It spends most of its time on land where it hides in rodent holes or under rocks during the day and gets active after dark to hunt for insects and other invertebrates. During the breeding season, the toad can be seen in large numbers in, or around water bodies. Females lay hundreds of eggs in a very long slimy chain that gets fertilized as it exits the female. The eggs hatch into pitch-black tadpoles that turn into adults within 6-8 weeks after emerging.

Variable green toad: eggs, tadpoles, and adult © Ramy Khashab

Caucasian Toad

Scientific Name: Bufo verrucosissimus

Family: Bufonidae

IUCN Status: Near Threatened (NT)

Unlike the Green Toad, this species presence is restricted to a few localities in Lebanon. Although adults are mostly terrestrial, the species inhabits perennial river valley with high humidity and dense tree cover (and leaf litter). The species is brown with a rough, dry skin and two poison-secreting lumps behind the eyes (only affective if bitten and ingested by predators). Due to its heavy build and short hind legs it can not perform long jumps but rather moves around by crawling. Like most amphibians it mainly gets active at night to search for preys, which are mainly invertebrates. The breeding season takes place in early spring and females lay eggs in long, slimy, doubled chains in the river pockets closer to land where the water is almost still. Eggs hatch into tiny black tadpoles around 10 days after being laid. Tadpoles metaporphose into tiny (1 centimeter) toads a few months later.


Urodela (the order of Salamanders and Newts) are characterized by their lizard-like appearance since birth and the larva are carnivorous with external gills. There are two species of the order recorded in Lebanon: Near Eastern Fire Salamander (Salamandra infraimmaculata) and the Southern Banded Newt (Ommatotriton vittatus).

Near-Eastern Fire Salamander (former page)

Scientific Name: Salamandra infraimmaculata

Family:  Salamandridae

IUCN Status: Near Threatened (NT)

It is the largest Fire Salamander species in the world (up to 32 cm) with females being bigger than males. It generally inhabits wet areas rich in vegetation and leaf litter where it mainly gets active at night during the rainy season. The species has smooth, shiny black skin with bright yellow spots of different shapes and sizes covering the whole body except the underside. The yellow spots serve as a warning for predators indicating that the salamander is poisonous if consumed (the phenomenon is called aposematism). Its diet consists mainly of invertebrates such as worms and insects, but larger salamanders can easily consume small vertebrates like baby frogs or lizards. Breeding starts at the beginning of the rainy season, during which females get fertilized by the spermatophore (a small protein capsule containing sperm cells) left by males on leaves and grasses. When ready, the female gives birth to up to 200 larvae into a body of water. Newborn larva is yellowish brown in color with external gills and fully developed tiny limbs. Unlike frog tadpoles, the Fire Salamander larvae are carnivorous and will feed on anything they can capture, even their own, smaller siblings.

Southern Banded Newt

Scientific Name: Ommatotriton vittatus

Family:  Salamandridae

IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)

It is a smaller (10-15 cm), less common species of the Salamandridae family found in Lebanon. Like the Fire Salamander, their activity is mainly associated with the rainy season when they emerge from their aestivation (summer brumation) hidings to breed and feed. Outside the mating period this species is usually brown in color, with yellow or orange belly, and often a whitish spot behind each eye. As the mating season arrives, the newts acquire a fully aquatic lifestyle (they stay in water). During this period the males become more vibrant in color (dark green spots) and develop a crest on their back that serves as attraction for females (the bigger the crest, the higher his chance to catch the attention of a female). Females lay their eggs on algae or wrap them in grasses under water. Eggs hatch into a tiny 1 cm long larva shortly after the eggs are laid. The hatched larva is grey in color, with external gills and tiny limbs. Both adults and larva leave the breeding water body and change to their terrestrial phase in preparation for the next dry season. In both stages, terrestrial and aquatic, they feed on invertebrates.


Husein Ali Zorkot, A guide to the Amphibians of Lebanon and the Middle East, Beirut: SPNL, 2000.