Red-eyed treefrogs can be found throughout most of Central America and as far north as southern Mexico.
Red-eyed treefrogs inhabit tropical rainforest areas, where they are commonly found in the lowland rainforests and surrounding hills, particularly in areas close to rivers or ponds. They prefer temperatures between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, between 66-77 degrees Fahrenheit during the nighttime, and humidity at around 80%-100%.
Red-eyed tree frogs are excellent climbers and have suction-cup toes that help them attach themselves to the underside of leaves, where they rest during the day. They can also be found clinging to branches and tree trunks throughout their habitat and are capable swimmers if necessary.
Red-eyed treefrogs are carnivores that feed primarily at night. The red-eyed treefrog’s green coloring permits it to stay hidden among the leaves of trees, waiting for insects or other small invertebrates to come their way. Red-eyed treefrogs eat any type of animal that fits into their mouth, but their usual diet is composed of crickets, moths, flies, grasshoppers, and sometimes even smaller frogs.
Red-eyed treefrogs are known foremost for their huge, bright red eyes, a possible adaptation to nocturnal activity or the central component of a defensive strategy called startle coloration. Red-eyed treefrogs have large, specially developed suction cup toe pads, which allow them to attach to leaves, branches, and the sides of trees
Female red-eyed treefrogs are generally larger than the males with an adult length of as much as 3 inches. Male red-eyed treefrogs usually reach an adult length of about 2 inches.
Red-eyed treefrogs usually reproduce in the rainy season. A croaking and quivering mating ritual initiates reproduction. Red-eyed treefrogs utilize a process called amplexus, a common form of reproduction for frog species. During amplexus the smaller male clasps the larger female and fertilizes the eggs as they emerge from the female. The male does not let go of the female until the eggs have been laid, which may persist for a day or longer. As reproduction takes place on the underside of leaves, the female must hold on to the leaf with her suction-cup toes, holding on for both herself and her mate. After each clutch of eggs that a female produces she must enter the water with the male still attached to her back, in order to fill her bladder with water. If the female does not fill her bladder between clutches, her eggs will dry up and die. Sometimes when a female and her mate enter the water, other males attempt to force the male from her back. If this is accomplished, another male will take his position and fertilize the next clutch of eggs. While most frog species lay their eggs directly into the water, red-eyed treefrogs lay theirs on the underside of leaves that hang over bodies of water. When the clutches of eggs have developed into tadpoles, which occur quickly, the tadpoles swim around within their eggs until the egg ruptures. The rupturing of all the eggs in the clutch occurs within a one minute time period, and the fluid released from the ruptured eggs helps to wash all the tadpoles down the leaf and into the water below.
Some believe that the bright, red eyes of this species act as a form of defense termed startle coloration. Red-eyed treefrogs are nocturnal and rest during the day. If a predator were to happen upon a red-eyed treefrog, the frog would awaken, and its eyes would suddenly pop open. The sudden brightness of their red eyes might startle the predator enough to give it just enough time necessary for the agile frog to jump to safety.
The musical mating ritual of red-eyed treefrogs starts with the loud croaking of one red-eyed treefrog that is quickly joined by the other male red-eyed treefrogs in the area with all sharing the common goal of attracting females. This loud croaking continues as male red-eyed treefrogs jump from one leaf to another in a frantic attempt to establish territory. Male red-eyed treefrogs are also known to “quiver” to attract females. Quivering occurs when the loud croaking is at its climax. Male red-eyed treefrogs inflate their vocal sacs and rise on all fours in an attempt to attract females and deter other males from entering their territory. During this process, at least two males face each other and quiver, their bodies violently shaking. This quivering ritual establishes territory and demonstrates strength and intimidation. During this process, when sparked by even the smallest movement, male red-eyed treefrogs wrestle with other males, and sometimes many males climb on top of one another. At some point during this mating ritual, trying not to attract too much attention, the females slowly come down from the treetops. Once the female has been noticed, several males will jump on her back, fighting each other for the best positioning. The best-positioned male is the one who is straight on her back and can clamp his arms and legs around her stomach. Sometimes several males will stay on her back for days until she finds an adequate spot to lay her eggs. Once she is in this spot, all the males attempt to fertilize her eggs.
These frogs are not considered threatened in their natural environment. However, there has been much concern about the overall condition of the rainforest in which red-eyed treefrogs live. Global warming, deforestation, climatic and atmospheric changes, wetland drainage, and pollution have caused dramatic declines in the amphibian populations of the rainforests of Central and South America.
Boman, B. 2002. “Agalychnis callidryas” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 07, 2007 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Agalychnis_callidryas.html