Despite renewed interest in the biogeography and evolutionary history of Old World tree frogs (Rhacophoridae), this family still includes enigmatic frogs with ambiguous phylogenetic placement. During fieldwork in four northeastern states of India, we discovered several populations of tree hole breeding frogs with oophagous tadpoles. We used molecular data, consisting of two nuclear and three mitochondrial gene fragments for all known rhacophorid genera, to investigate the phylogenetic position of these new frogs. Our analyses identify a previously overlooked, yet distinct evolutionary lineage of frogs that warrants recognition as a new genus and is here described as Frankixalus gen. nov. This genus, which contains the enigmatic ‘Polypedates’ jerdonii described by Günther in 1876, forms the sister group of a clade containing Kurixalus, Pseudophilautus, Raorchestes, Mercurana and Beddomixalus. The distinctiveness of this evolutionary lineage is also corroborated by the external morphology of adults and tadpoles, adult osteology, breeding ecology, and life history features.
Tree frogs climb smooth surfaces utilising capillary forces arising from an air-fluid interface around their toe pads, whereas torrent frogs are able to climb in wet environments near waterfalls where the integrity of the meniscus is at risk. This study compares the adhesive capabilities of a torrent frog to a tree frog, investigating possible adaptations for adhesion under wet conditions. We challenged both frog species to cling to a platform which could be tilted from the horizontal to an upside-down orientation, testing the frogs on different levels of roughness and water flow. On dry, smooth surfaces, both frog species stayed attached to overhanging slopes equally well. In contrast, under both low and high flow rate conditions, the torrent frogs performed significantly better, even adhering under conditions where their toe pads were submerged in water, abolishing the meniscus that underlies capillarity. Using a transparent platform where areas of contact are illuminated, we measured the contact area of frogs during platform rotation under dry conditions. Both frog species not only used the contact area of their pads to adhere, but also large parts of their belly and thigh skin. In the tree frogs, the belly and thighs often detached on steeper slopes, whereas the torrent frogs increased the use of these areas as the slope angle increased. Probing small areas of the different skin parts with a force transducer revealed that forces declined significantly in wet conditions, with only minor differences between the frog species. The superior abilities of the torrent frogs were thus due to the large contact area they used on steep, overhanging surfaces. SEM images revealed slightly elongated cells in the periphery of the toe pads in the torrent frogs, with straightened channels in between them which could facilitate drainage of excess fluid underneath the pad.
A major cause of amphibian declines worldwide is habitat destruction or alteration. Public green spaces, such as golf courses and parks, could serve as safe havens to curb the effects of habitat loss if managed in ways to bolster local amphibian communities. We reared larval Blanchard’s cricket frogs (Acris blanchardi) and green frogs (Rana clamitans) in golf course ponds with and without 1 m terrestrial buffer zones, and released marked cricket frog metamorphs at the golf course ponds they were reared in. Larval survival of both species was affected by the presence of a buffer zone, with increased survival for cricket frogs and decreased survival for green frogs when reared in ponds with buffer zones. No marked cricket frog juveniles were recovered at any golf course pond in the following year, suggesting that most animals died or migrated. In a separate study, we released cricket frogs in a terrestrial pen and allowed them to choose between mown and unmown grass. Cricket frogs had a greater probability of using unmown versus mown grass. Our results suggest that incorporating buffer zones around ponds can offer suitable habitat for some amphibian species and can improve the quality of the aquatic environment for some sensitive local amphibians.
Intraspecific communication in frogs plays an important role in the recognition of conspecifics in general and of potential rivals or mates in particular and therefore with relevant consequences for pre-zygotic reproductive isolation. We investigate intraspecific communication in Hylodes japi, an endemic Brazilian torrent frog with territorial males and an elaborate courtship behavior. We describe its repertoire of acoustic signals as well as one of the most complex repertoires of visual displays known in anurans, including five new visual displays. Previously unknown in frogs, we also describe a bimodal inter-sexual communication system where the female stimulates the male to emit a courtship call. As another novelty for frogs, we show that in addition to choosing which limb to signal with, males choose which of their two vocal sacs will be used for visual signaling. We explain how and why this is accomplished. Control of inflation also provides additional evidence that vocal sac movement and color must be important for visual communication, even while producing sound. Through the current knowledge on visual signaling in Neotropical torrent frogs (i.e. hylodids), we discuss and highlight the behavioral diversity in the family Hylodidae. Our findings indicate that communication in species of Hylodes is undoubtedly more sophisticated than we expected and that visual communication in anurans is more widespread than previously thought. This is especially true in tropical regions, most likely due to the higher number of species and phylogenetic groups and/or to ecological factors, such as higher microhabitat diversity.
We describe a new species of fanged frog (Limnonectes larvaepartus) that is unique among anurans in having both internal fertilization and birth of tadpoles. The new species is endemic to Sulawesi Island, Indonesia. This is the fourth valid species of Limnonectes described from Sulawesi despite that the radiation includes at least 15 species and possibly many more. Fewer than a dozen of the 6455 species of frogs in the world are known to have internal fertilization, and of these, all but the new species either deposit fertilized eggs or give birth to froglets.
Tree frogs use adhesive toe pads for climbing on a variety of surfaces. They rely on wet adhesion, which is aided by the secretion of mucus. In nature, the pads will undoubtedly get contaminated regularly through usage, but appear to maintain their stickiness over time. Here, we show in two experiments that the toe pads of White’s tree frogs (Litoria caerulea) quickly recover from contamination through a self-cleaning mechanism. We compared adhesive forces prior to and after contamination of (1) the whole animal on a rotatable platform and (2) individual toe pads in restrained frogs mimicking individual steps using a motorised stage. In both cases, the adhesive forces recovered after a few steps but this took significantly longer in single toe pad experiments from restrained frogs, showing that use of the pads increases recovery. We propose that both shear movements and a ‘flushing’ effect of the secreted mucus play an important role in shedding particles/contaminants.
A third-stage (infective) larva of Dracunculus medinensis, the causative agent of Guinea worm disease, was recovered from a wild-caught Phrynobatrachus francisci frog in Chad. Although green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) have been experimentally infected with D. medinensis worms, our findings prove that frogs can serve as natural paratenic hosts.
Many animals use sounds produced by conspecifics for mate identification. Female insects and anuran amphibians, for instance, use acoustic cues to localize, orient toward and approach conspecific males prior to mating. Here we present a novel technique that utilizes multiple, distributed sound-indication devices and a miniature LED backpack to visualize and record the nocturnal phonotactic approach of females of the Australian orange-eyed tree frog (Litoria chloris) both in a laboratory arena and in the animal’s natural habitat. Continuous high-definition digital recording of the LED coordinates provides automatic tracking of the female’s position, and the illumination patterns of the sound-indication devices allow us to discriminate multiple sound sources including loudspeakers broadcasting calls as well as calls emitted by individual male frogs. This innovative methodology is widely applicable for the study of phonotaxis and spatial structures of acoustically communicating nocturnal animals.
Biological materials achieve directional reinforcement with oriented assemblies of anisotropic building blocks. One such example is the nanocomposite structure of keratinized epithelium on the toe pad of tree frogs, in which hexagonal arrays of (soft) epithelial cells are crossed by densely packed and oriented (hard) keratin nanofibrils. Here, a method is established to fabricate arrays of tree-frog-inspired composite micropatterns composed of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) micropillars embedded with polystyrene (PS) nanopillars. Adhesive and frictional studies of these synthetic materials reveal a benefit of the hierarchical and anisotropic design for both adhesion and friction, in particular, at high matrix-fiber interfacial strengths. The presence of PS nanopillars alters the stress distribution at the contact interface of micropillars and therefore enhances the adhesion and friction of the composite micropattern. The results suggest a design principle for bioinspired structural adhesives, especially for wet environments.
Buergeria japonica is a widely distributed treefrog occurring from Ryukyu Archipelago to Taiwan. Across this wide distributional range, we combined molecular, acoustic, morphological, and behavioral characters to clarify the taxonomic status among these insular populations. Genetic differentiation in mitochondrial sequences indicated an over 16% divergence among two deeply divergent clades: Japanese clade distributes in Ryukyu Archipelago and northwestern drainages of Taiwan, while Taiwanese clade distributes in the remaining drainages on Taiwan. The Taiwanese clade can be distinguished from the nominative species not only by molecular and morphological differences, but also distinguishable by considerable acoustic differentiation, which is extraordinarily noticeable for an additional type of long call that never recorded from Japanese clade. The two clades form a parapatric distribution pattern with narrow contact zones both in western and eastern Taiwan. Playback experiments indicated that male frogs show significantly stronger defensiveness against conspecific calls rather than heterospecific calls, indicating that these signals play a crucial role in species recognition. Here we describe the Taiwanese clade as a new species; the behavioral response and the magnitude of gene flow across their contact zones are especially worth for detailed studies.