The Central American rainforests are almost a fantasy camp for amphibians. They have everything they could ever dream of having: plenty of water, zillions of bugs, lots of shady, damp places to hide. While newts, salamanders and caecilians all live here, they live in the ground and are hard to see. That means the amphibian you see the most is the frog.
And what frogs! The rainforest is home to more than 2,100 species of frog. All you have to do to see some is…look up. The frogs of the rainforest are mostly in the trees. The fact that there are so many different kinds means that these frogs are some of the strangest creatures you might ever see. Rainforest frogs come in colors like blue and hot pink, and they do some pretty wacky things, too. Here are some of the most unusual varieties of frogs hanging out on the branches in Central America.
Poison Dart Frogs – Did you know frogs could be used as weapons? Their secretions can. The toxic oozings of the frogs have long been used by indigenous people of Central and South America to make poisonous tips for blowpipes. The toxicity comes in a roundabout way: the result of ingesting bugs that have eaten poisonous plants. In fact, the wild rainbow colors the amphibians sport is a warning that says, “Hey! Don’t me! I’m poisonous!” If you think that’s the oddest thing about poison dart frogs, think again. The female of the species lays her eggs on the ground, then urinates on them to keep them nice and moist.
Bare-hearted Glass Frogs – This native of Costa Rica gets its name from the fact that it has eerily translucent skin. To be precise, it is so translucent that you can see right through to the frog’s beating heart. These tiny, delicate-looking creatures have characteristics of primitive frogs. They have more in common with extinct frogs than modern ones. If ever there was an amphibian that could make you say “Awww”, this is it: an animal that literally wears its heart on its sleeve.
Panamanian Golden Frog – This creature is a striking golden color (which tells you it’s full of poison), but that’s not what makes it so special. It takes much more than spectacular coloring to get labeled “unusual” in the rainforest. What is amazing is that it actually waves. The dazzling golden frogs wave their front legs gently at each other to communicate. Sadly, they haven’t been spotted in the wild since a BBC camera caught one on film in 1989. They have been determined to be possibly extinct, though some still hold out hope. Has the golden frog waved a final goodbye?
Giant Monkey Frog – No, it’s not something from a B-grade horror movie; it’s an actual upstanding rainforest citizen. The monkey frog has absurdly long, gangly limbs for an amphibian, not to mention no webbing between its toes. That means that the frog can grab on to branches and swing itself around like -you guessed it- a monkey!
Tiger-leg Leaf Frog – This frog is like the Jekyll & Hyde of Central America. Viewed from the top, it’s an ordinary froglike green color, which is almost weird in this land of multicolored frogs. Take a look at its legs though. This creature actually looks like it’s wearing a pair of orange-and-black tiger-striped leggings. Don’t think this means it is only halfway poisonous! It’s as toxic as its buddies.
Sadly, each of these species is on the decline. Deforestation and environmental changes mean that the frogs are getting harder and harder to spot. If these frogs all disappear, it will mean a loss of beauty, color and uniqueness that make up part of Central America’s vibrancy. These aren’t just frogs; they’re nature’s art, and as such, need preserving.