No traction: the Lemur Leaf Frog is a typical leaf frog, a group of approximately 65 species, native to the tropical Americas. The animals are adapted to the trees as they spend practically their entire life in the branches and foliage of trees and bushes. They walk about at lofty heights, grasping the branches to find a secure hold – and if they need to go fast, they sometimes even risk a daring jump.
The Lemur Leaf Frog’s spindly body and giant eyes give it a ghostlike appearance. It is very small: while females reach a length of 4.5 centimeters, males don’t even grow to 4 centimeters. The frogs live at altitudes of 440 to 1600 meters.
The Lemur Leaf Frog’s big eyes and vertical pupils reveal that they are strictly nocturnal. At night, they are olive green with a red shimmer and small spots. During the day, they become a bright apple green, almost yellow, and attach themselves to a similarly colored leaves, tuck in their limbs, and close their eyes. This way, they can spend their day resting, perfectly camouflaged.
Lemur Leaf Frogs used to be widespread in Costa Rica, Panama, und up to the northernmost edges of Columbia. Then the chytrid fungus rolled over Central America, bringing with it a wave of death and decimating entire populations of frogs. It also reached Lemur Leaf Frogs – but luckily not all of them. Only small but isolated populations managed to withstand the fungus. Apparently, these animals ‘learned’ to live with it. Scientists are fascinated with this mechanism, but do not entirely understand it yet.
The fungus also reached Lemur Leaf Frogs – but luckily not all of them
Lemur Leaf Frog. |Tobias Eisenberg
Lemur Leaf Frogs are not only threatened by the chytrid fungus, but also by humans. The forests where the frogs live are being cut down, and they do not like to be disturbed. This is also why they are nowhere to be found in cultivated environments or in woods that have been heavily altered by humans. Even so, zoos and private breeders have been quite successful in breeding this species in captivity. Citizen Conservation wants to help establish these populations and conserve their genetic diversity. Let’s hope this frog won’t actually be a ghost soon!