Red-Eyed Tree Frog Habitat and Lifecycle

We can learn something about life from looking at the variations in the over five thousand species of frog—habitat dictates adaptation.  Frogs live mostly in ponds and near rivers but many venture out into the surrounding grasslands and some even move up into the trees for most of their lives.  These variations in frog habitat also predict variations in frog adaptations.

An adaptation is a lucky mutation allowing one set of species’ genes to survive over another.  Darwin’s notion of evolution argues that the reason an adaptation survives is that it allows a species to more successfully gather food, protect itself, or mate. 

Therefore, let us consider the red-eyed tree frog habitat and lifecycle to see how this clarifies Darwin’s theory.

The Red-Eyed Tree Frog

The red-eyed tree frog (agalychnis callidryas) is a type of arboreal frog common to Central and South America.  It is in one of the two families of tree frogs.  Its adaptations, however, are one of the main things that allow us to distinguish it from other types of frogs.

Arboreal Adaptations

The red-eyed tree frog has a number of adaptations that equip it to its particular frog habitat, the trees.  First, nature has made the pads on the red-eyed tree frog so that it can grapple onto the surface of most trees allowing them to negotiate their way easily among the foliage.

Unlike land and pond frogs who can only hop once they are out of the water, the back legs and hips of tree frogs allow them to crawl along surfaces so that they do not have to take on the added danger of hopping along high canopies.  This decreases both their chances of falling to their deaths and of attracting the attention of the many jungle predators who would like nothing better to have red-eyed tree frog for lunch.

Yet another adaptation that helps tree frogs negotiate their elevated frog habitat is the webbing on their feet.  Where as the webbing in pond frogs helps them to swim, the webbing in tree frogs helps them to control their glide so that they can glide from one high arboreal perch in the trees to another.  The webbing works as a sort of hand glider or parachute that they open after they jump from their location. 

Finally, one other adaptation that allows them to survive their many predators is camouflage.  Although the red-eyed tree frog does have red eyes, the rest of it is a green that superbly matches its surroundings.


The Sex-Life of the Red-Eyed Tree Frog

The most unusual and dangerous time for the red-eyed tree frog is the rainy season—the mating season.  During the rainy season, the red-eye drops down from its comfortable tree dwelling and takes to the bushes near its pond or river.  There, in its bush the male lets out his plaintive call for a mate.  This dangerous invitation is the only way the male can attract a female to him so that he can reproduce.  To try to confuse and scare off predators that might come across him in this vulnerable state, the red-eye shakes the bush vigorously, as if to say, “I am something dangerous that isn’t afraid of being heard and seen.  Don’t mess with me.”

If the male is lucky, a female soon shows up.  When she does, the male mounts her as she clings to the bottom of a leaf suspended over a pond.  The male then fertilizes the female’s eggs as they exit from the female in a process that can take up to an entire day.  As the clutch comes out, the female then drops into the water to give her eggs a place to hatch (they will come out as tadpoles).  The male continues to ride her back and now has to fight off other red-eyes that want a piece of the action.  If he succeeds in holding on, his will be the only genes to make it to the next generation from that female; if he fails, another male will get some genes reproduced. 

Then the whole process can start all over again with a whole new crop of tadpoles who when they mature will climb up into the surrounding trees.



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