Peek-a-BOO! Frogs defend themselves by striking more than 30 postures and movements. Eye-protection is a defensive position for frogs, previously known to occur in two species of Rhacophorus Tree Frogs (R. feae and R. margaritifer). In September’s Herpetological Review, we learned that Harlequin Tree Frogs (Rhacophorus pardalis), common across the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines, display defensively, protecting their eyes. The Harlequin Tree Frog is known for its ability to seemingly glide from perch to perch, grasping new surfaces with its webbed orange toes, and displaying patches of red and yellow mottled color on its sides. Eye protection can now be added to its repertoire of tricks.
Zdeněk Mačát and colleagues were herping in Temburong National Park in Brunei when they spotted a Harlequin Tree Frog and upon attempting to capture the frog saw that it began to behave to protect itself. The frog covered its eyes by rotating its forelimbs to the side of its head and its webbed toes covered both eyes entirely. The frog remained immobile for more than two minutes. During those minutes, the group realized that by rotating its forelimbs, the frog achieved two things: first, protecting its eyes but, second, flashing its red and yellow sides in warning to a potential challenger.
What defensive characters have you seen frogs display in the wild?
Citation: Mačát , Z., H. Ahmad Sah, and T. Ulmar Grafe. 2015. Rhacophorus pardalis (Harlequin Tree Frog). Defensive Behavior. Herpetological Review 46 (3): 418.