Species Profile: Red Eyed Tree Frog

Agalychnis callidryas. Credit: Ian Millichip
Agalychnis callidryas. Credit: Ian Millichip

Name: Red Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas).

Range: Widespread through Central America, South Eastern Mexico and the North West of Colombia.

Diet: Insectivorious

Conservation Status: IUCN – Least Concern

This colourful species is perhaps one of the world’s better known frogs. Its bright colours and and cartoon-like features have made it a poster-child for many conservation projects and wildlife charities.

Its beautiful appearance may actually serve an anti-predatory function. When in resting position, the tree frog’s bright flank and eyes are concealed, helping it to blend into vegetation. If the frog is disturbed it will open its eyes and make efforts to evade capture. The resulting flash of colour, from the sudden exposure of the animals eyes, flank and feet, may temporarily dazzle a would-be predator. This defensive patterning is sometimes referred to as “startle-colouration”.

Rather than laying their eggs directly in a water body, Red-Eyes deposit their eggs in clumps on the underside of leaves  that overhang pools. When the tadpoles have reached the correct developmental stage, they hatch and drop to the pool below. The tadpoles are very vulnerable during these early stages of development, and predators such as wasps will readily avail of the easy meal presented by the leaf-borne tadpoles. But this species has yet another anti-predatory defense up its proverbial sleeve: If the tadpoles are disturbed by predators, they can hatch early and drop to the relative safety of the pool below. The tadpoles sense danger via the vibrations given off by the predator. What is especially impressive about this skill, is the tadpoles’ ability to differentiate between predatory vibrations and vibrations given off by environmental cues such as rain-drops.

The frog’s bi-nomial name has an especially beautiful and relevant meaning: Agalychnis is simply the genus to which the species belongs but callidryas comes from the Greek words “Kallos” and “Dryas” which together describe this jewel of the rainforest as a “beautiful tree nymph”.

Related Content: The Red Eyed Tree Frog has featured on the front cover of  The Herpetological Society of Ireland’s publication “Lacerta” in the form of art composed by Ciara Maher-Langan.



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