Friday, March 11, 2011

Creature Feature: Red-Eyed Tree Frog.

When you think "rain forest," what is the first animal that comes to mind? The elegant, stealthy jaguar? The multicolored macaws of the Amazon? How about this little fellow, who pops on rain forest/conservation-related merchandise every now and then?

If you know what a rain forest is, you have seen him.

Cha! Cha!, one of the mascots for the Rainforest Cafe, is a red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas). Not too fancy in the name department, were you, science? The red-eyed tree frog, true to its marketing, is native to the rain forests of Central America. Like most frogs, it is a flagship animal for conservation.


 And why not? Frogs are cute, brightly colored creatures that depend on their external environment more than most animals. They breathe through their skin and have an underwater stage, meaning that both the air and water have to be very clean for a frog to prosper. The loss of frogs indicates that all is not well. Losing a fascinating, cute frog is a particularly painful blow.

These frogs are colorful, which means only one thing in frogs: Poison. Those blue stripes and orange feet are a warning. During the day, however, the frog prefers to conceal these warnings by folding its legs in, closing its eyes, and staying still and green as a leaf. Kermit lied; it's quite easy being green.

He's a trickster. You can see it in his eyes.

The red-eyed tree frog is not only colorful, but vocal. During mating season, the male frogs make noise by rattling the leaves they dwell on to scare off rivals- proof that arboreal creatures can communicate with vibrations. They croak deep sounds -one of which sounds like "chack"-  for mating and high-pitched sounds as a warning. Their range of noise-making should be no surprise given their relationship to the Chorus Frog - a frog so noisy that it is compared to a locust.It would be a shame if they suddenly went silent.

Plus, they're cute. 

P.S.- Sorry, Japan. My deepest sympathies; I will be buying a special something + 5 dollar donation to help you recover.

Tomorrow: It's almost as good as a Ditto...only real.

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