Phyllomedusa tomopterna, or the Tiger-legged Monkey Frog, is a small species of Phyllomedusa which occurs over a large area of northern South America; from Ecuador to Brazil and as far South as Bolivia. This is a lowland species that lives in warm and humid tropical rainforests. Populations that occur in unprotected areas are directly threatened by deforestation.
At a glance, some herpetologists may think that this frog belongs more to the leaf frog genus Agalychnis, as unlike many other species of monkey frog, which tend to perch on branches when resting, this species lies flat against a surface of leaves hiding its bright flank colouration in a similar fashion to leaf frogs.
However, although in the same sub-family as Leaf frogs, upon closer inspection it becomes clear that this is typically a Monkey frog: the hands and feet lack any webbing, they rarely jump unless startled, and as with all monkey frogs they use these grasping hands to methodically walk and climb branches. Most importantly, when it comes to reproduction, unlike leaf frogs which simply lay their eggs on a leaf, these wrap the leaf around the eggs laid and produce a type of ‘nest.’
Producing a leaf nest has many benefits; the eggs within are protected from predators such as fish as the eggs are out of water, and also as the nest is folded and sealed shut they are protected from the many insects which may cause a threat to them. They are also protected from drying out in the sun, as the folded leaf keeps them from being exposed to direct sunlight. The adult frogs are smart enough to produce water-filled capsules that they lay between fertile eggs, which rupture and hydrate the developing tadpoles should they become too dry. When they are ready to hatch the tadpoles drop from the nest into water below, as the adults never spawn unless the leaves are directly above a pool of water.
Over the New Year, we have been lucky to have our own group of tiger-legged monkey frogs reproduce in one of our rain chambers, producing a small nest of eggs.
These eggs have now developed into tadpoles and will hatch in the next day or so. They can be seen on public display in our back of house viewing area within the new Vivarium.
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