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What is a Tree Frog?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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A tree frog is a frog in the family Hylidae or Rhacophoridae which has certain adaptations which predispose the frog to an arboreal lifestyle. Tree frogs spend much of their lives in trees and shrubs, although some species may choose other lifestyles, depending on environment and inclination, and these frogs are quite diverse. The vast majority of tree frogs live in the tropics of the New World, but they can also be found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Some zoological parks keep tree frogs for their visitors to examine, especially if the parks have a focus on conservation in the tropics. Exotic tree frogs may be displayed with other tropical species in large greenhouses which are designed to create a replication of the warm, moist tropical environment, and tree frogs can also be seen on display in smaller tanks and cages. Some tree frog species also make suitable pets, with pet stores carrying tree frogs along with other supplies like aquaria and food for frogs.

The main defining feature of a tree frog is the adhesive discs attached to its long toes, which enable it to climb rapidly and securely in its arboreal home. Tree frogs come in a range of colors, from drab greens and browns to brightly colored tropical effusions of color found on tropical frogs; the bright colors are a warning that the frog is toxic, encouraging predators to look elsewhere for a snack.

Old World Tree frogs fall into the Family Rhacophoridae, and they are also known as moss frogs. They tend to be relatively small, and many are a bright, glossy green. New World Frogs in the family Hylidae come in a range of colors, and many are also extremely vocal. This is because tree frogs meet up around ponds and puddles to mate, so they vocalize to lure companions out of the surrounding woodlands.

Although most tree frog species live in trees, they generally lay their eggs in water, with the exception of a species which incubates eggs on its back. Some tree frogs are burrowing frogs, preferring the moist environments near lakes, ponds, and streams, and others build nests in undergrowth, rather than inhabiting trees. Tree frogs eat diverse diets, depending on where they live, consuming a wide variety of insects and some plant materials.

Like other amphibians, tree frogs are very sensitive to changes in their natural environment caused by pollution or increased human activity. As a result, some tree frog species are used as indicators to monitor the health of specific regions of the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a tree frog?

A tree frog is a small amphibian that belongs to the family Hylidae. These frogs are known for their climbing abilities, facilitated by adhesive pads on their toes. They inhabit trees and other vegetation, often near water sources, and are characterized by their slender bodies, long legs, and vocal calls, which are especially prominent during mating seasons.

How do tree frogs differ from other frogs?

Tree frogs are distinct from other frogs in their arboreal lifestyle, spending much of their time in trees. They have evolved unique adaptations such as toe pads that allow them to grip and climb vegetation. Additionally, tree frogs generally have smoother skin and more vibrant colors compared to their terrestrial counterparts, which aids in camouflage among foliage.

Where can tree frogs be found geographically?

Tree frogs are widespread, inhabiting various regions across the globe. They are found in tropical and subtropical climates, with a high diversity in areas like the Amazon Basin. Some species also live in temperate zones, such as the European tree frog. Their distribution extends across the Americas, parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia.

What do tree frogs eat?

Tree frogs are primarily insectivores, feeding on a diet that includes flies, mosquitoes, and other small invertebrates. Their hunting strategy involves waiting for prey to come within reach and then capturing it with a quick flick of their sticky tongue. Larger species may also consume small vertebrates, such as other smaller frogs.

Are tree frogs important to the ecosystem?

Tree frogs play a crucial role in their ecosystems as both predators and prey. They help control insect populations, which can impact human agriculture and disease transmission. As prey, they are a food source for birds, mammals, and reptiles. Their presence also indicates a healthy environment, as they are sensitive to pollution and habitat destruction.

How do tree frogs reproduce?

Tree frogs reproduce through a process called amplexus, where the male clasps the female to fertilize her eggs externally. Mating calls are a distinctive aspect of their reproduction, with males vocalizing to attract females. The eggs are typically laid in water or moist areas, where they will hatch into tadpoles before undergoing metamorphosis into adult frogs.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By honeybees — On May 23, 2012

Whenever I think of a tree frog, I am reminded of the pictures of a red eyed tree frog I have seen. The red eyes on the bright green body really stand out.

I have never actually seen one of these frogs and think I would be quite fascinated by it. We live in a wooded area with a pond, and I am surprised that I have never seen one of these.

The sound of the frogs at night can keep some people awake if they aren't used to it. I love this sound, and find it very relaxing and like to sleep with my windows open so I can hear them.

Other people who stay with us, keep their windows closed because they aren't used to such strange, loud noises while they are trying to sleep.

By John57 — On May 23, 2012

I have seen the glossy green tree frogs outside from time to time. Usually they are stuck on the outside of a building, but I have never seen one in a tree either.

The green tree frogs might be kind of hard to see on the leaves of a tree because their color would blend in so well with the environment around them.

I find it interesting that the tree frogs that have the bright colors are toxic. Since I don't live in a tropical area, the only ones I have seen are a green or grey tree frog.

The times I have seen them, they don't move around but stay glued to the same area for a long time. I wouldn't think they would be finding any food when they are on the side of a building like that, but maybe they are eating insects that are flying around.

By SarahSon — On May 22, 2012

The only time I have seen a tree frog is stuck to the outside of my window, and never in a tree.

Sometimes in the summer I will see a brown blog on the outside of the window, and it is a common tree frog. It is interesting to see this up close and personal and you can get a really good look at their sticky feet.

As long as they stay outside, they are harmless and I know they probably eat a lot of bugs, for which I am thankful.

I have never heard them make any noise though. The tree frogs I have seen are not very big. I might be surprised at the sound that comes out of such a tiny frog.

By LisaLou — On May 22, 2012
I have never really thought about having a tree frog for a pet before. If my son knew they sold them, he would probably be begging me to buy a tree frog for him.

I would be about as excited about this pet as I am some of the other creatures he has brought in the house to keep as a pet.

My thinking is that these creatures need to be kept outside in their natural environment. The last thing I want is to have them escape and know they are hiding in my house somewhere.

If a tree frog was hiding inside my house, I wonder if I would be able to find it from the noise it makes?

In the summer time, the frogs in the pond can really be pretty loud at night, and I wonder if a single tree frog would be this vocal?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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