Welcome to another feature article here on the Ya’axche blog. Every other Friday (opposite our Ranger Conversations) we’ll use this space to highlight a really neat animal that populates the lands managed by Ya’axche. There are so many to choose from. The Maya Mountains are one of the most biologically diverse sections of Central America. We have jaguars and tapirs, toucans and macaws, coral snakes and boa constrictors, crocodiles and Harpy eagles.
But in honor of our new status as co-manager of Bladen Nature Reserve where, in the words of our Protected Areas Manager, “if you spent a week out there you would probably discover a new species of amphibian,” I’m going to start this section with a frog. Meet the Red-Eyed Tree Frog.
This colorful frog is named for its iconic eyes. The red color helps the nocturnal predator see at night as is part of a natural defense tactic called startle coloration. During the day this frog will pull its legs in and close its eyes while affixing itself to the bottom of a leaf. Should a predator happen to come by, the frog will open its eyes and startle the intruder with its oddly-colored eyes. Next it will move its legs revealing its orange feet and blue patches on its side. During that moment the predator is confused, the frog can hop away to safety. Imagine your hamburger suddenly opening up to reveal a neon center. It’d give you pause too!
A frog that can hang out on the under side of a leaf isn’t too big, and the red-eyed tree frog never gets much larger than about 3″. Females are larger than males. They eat the likes of crickets, moths and other insects and they’ve been known to eat smaller frogs. This National Geographic site is really informative, and will let you download an image of the frog for desktop wallpaper.
We have many red-eyed tree frogs on Ya’axche-managed lands, both in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, and Bladen Nature Reserve. The animals can be found throughout Central America and are not considered an endangered or threatened species. Nonetheless, excessive forestation is leading to significant habitat loss which makes their future more bleak. They like to live in lowland, tropical rain forests near rivers, which is also prime real estate for slash-and-burn agriculture. As a result, and due to their iconic appearance, they are often associated with conservation efforts.
Kermit, meet your technicolor cousin!
Update (11 March 2009): I recently read an article discussing the agrochemical threat to amphibians in the Maya Mountain Massif. Our vigilance and action is critical!