Gaudy Leaf Frog

October 22, 2013 by  

Gaudy Leaf Frog, Agalychnis annae is an endangered tree frog of the Hylidae family native to Costa Rica and Panama.
It is often found in tropical rainforests in Costa Rica and Panama.
There is probably no better ambassador for Costa Rica, and for Tropical Rainforests in general, than the Gaudy Leaf Frog. Their bold and vibrant color patterns make them one of the most photographed frogs in the world. Along with Toucans, Parrots, Monkeys and Quetzals, these very attractive amphibians have come to embody the beauty and wonder awaiting discovery in the Costa Rican Rainforest. There is hardly an item in any souvenir store which is not decorated with its image: t-shirts, beach towels, calendars, hats, stuffed animals, shot glasses or any other item imaginable. Yet, the moment you see this frog in person, the reason it fascinates observers and why it is such a sought after model for photographers becomes strikingly obvious. It truly has a charm all its own.

Gaudy Leaf Frogs are primarily lowland frogs and can be commonly found throughout the Caribbean Lowlands and the humid lowlands of the Pacific Slope from sea level to about 1000 meters in elevation. They are not found in the drier parts of the Guanacaste Province, but have recently been collected on the southern most tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Their size ranges from 50 to 71 millimeters, females being larger than males.

There are two distinct, geographically isolated, populations in Costa Rica. Although they are still considered the same species, frogs living on the Caribbean side have much brighter coloration. These individuals normally have bright orange hands and feet as well as bright blue along their sides. Their upper arms are normally either bright blue or orange. The intensity of the colors and their pattern make these Caribbean frogs truly gaudy specimens.

The coloration of Gaudy Leaf Frogs in Drake Bay, and throughout the Pacific Slope, is a bit muted. Their fingers and toes may have greenish, cream or light orange coloration and their sides are normally a much lighter blue or brownish in color. Still, they remain a spectacle to behold and invariably bring a gasp and a smile to everyone’s face when encountered on The Night Tour. All of the frogs featured on this web page are wild individuals photographed in Drake Bay.

Because of their arboreal and nocturnal lifestyle, Gaudy Leaf Frogs are not so easily encountered by travelers. During dry season, as well as throughout the day, they all but disappear into the forest canopy. Very little is known about their activity during these times. On the Pacific, because there is a pronounced dry season, we only tend to see them during the rainier months. Breeding season normally begins in late May or early June and this is when males descend closer to ground level and embark on their quest to find a mate.

Activity usually peaks on rainy nights, sometimes before or after a heavy rain. Generally males will call in groups near a breeding site. Calling males will try different perches, facing different directions throughout the night in an effort to improve their chances of attracting a female. A gravid female will sit and listen to the calling males until she decides on one she likes.

Their advertising call is very

simple, usually a single “chuck” or sometimes a double “chuck, chuck”. Although their call is so simple, a female will decide on her mate based solely on his call. Once she has decided on a mate she will walk towards him in a straight line, passing by other calling males on the way there.

On rare occasions, two males will fight over a female, as is pictured on the left. One night, while walking near La Paloma Lodge, we came upon this incredible battle scene. We watched in tense silence, awaiting the outcome. During this match, the two males wrestled for several minutes until one was dislodged from the perch and retreated unharmed. The larger female observed the events develop from a branch a couple of feet above the battleground.

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