15 Facts About Red-eyed Tree Frogs

Red-eyed green tree frogs are recognizable amphibians living in Central America’s rainforests. You can’t mistake those big bright orange-red eyes. They are a popular exotic pet because they’re easy to care for. Not to mention, they’re adorable. These little tree frogs are only about 2 inches long. Females can be up to 3 inches. We have put together a list of 15 interesting facts about red-eyed tree frogs, so let’s dive in and learn more about them.

15 Facts about Red-Eyed Tree Frogs

1. They Are An Ancient Species

Red-eyed tree frog
Red-eyed tree frog | Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Frogs first showed up in the evolutionary history of land animals about 250 million years ago. They survived many cataclysmic events that wiped out other species.

The red-eyed tree frog evolved out of ancient frog species just over 10 million years ago. Needless to say, they’ve been on the planet a long, long time.

2. Their Red Eyes Are A Defense Called “Startle Coloration”

Those red eyes aren’t just for decoration. They actually serve a very important purpose for the frog’s survival. Red-eyed tree frogs use a defense mechanism called “startle coloration.”

If approached by a predator, a frog stuns it by flashing those big red eyes. In the split second that it takes the aggressor to figure out what’s happening, the tree frog can escape.

3. They Are Arboreal Frogs

Red-eyed tree frogs, as their name says, live in trees. They’ve developed special pads on their toes to grip leaves and branches. This is a group of frogs called arboreal frogs.

With orange toes, it’s easy to see those puffy fat toe pads that stick to surfaces. The red-eyed green tree frog can climb with no problem using its naturally sticky toes.

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4. Nicknamed the “Leaf Frog”

Red-eyed tree frog
Red-eyed tree frog

Rainforests are naturally a green environment. Tree frogs have adapted their color to blend into the vegetation.

The red-eyed tree frog is also nicknamed the leaf frog. They easily blend into leaves in their environment because of their bright green coloration.

5. They Use Their Huge Eyes To Swallow Faster

Red-eyed tree frogs have adapted an unusual technique to swallow food faster. They close their huge red eyes, drawing them into their head, which helps push food into their belly faster.

This serves two purposes. First, it helps the frog swallow quickly before the insect can escape. Second, it allows frogs to gobble up more insects faster.

6. They Are Not Toxic

Many creatures that display bright colors in nature are toxic, and their coloration is meant to warn predators to stay away. Some frogs and toads secrete toxins for protection.

Not the red-eyed tree frog. Despite those big bright red eyes and bright orange toes, these frogs do not emit toxins. They rely on their camouflage for protection.

7. They Are Nocturnal

Red-eyed tree frog
Red-eyed tree frog

It may come as no surprise that red-eyed green tree frogs are nocturnal. During the day, it would be easy for a predator to spot those bulging red eyes, so the frogs sleep.

At night, the frogs awaken to hunt insects. When it’s mating season, males will sit on leaves at night and call to females from higher branches.

8. Males Are Territorial

Male red-eyed tree frogs are territorial. They do not like to share a branch, leaf, or female, and they will wrestle another male who encroaches.

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The male frogs display unique behaviors to ward off intruders from their territory and their mates. One way to warn a trespasser is by shaking their bodies.

9. Males Communicate By Shaking

Male red-eyed tree frogs let other intruding males know to stay away by shaking their bodies. This is known as tremulation.

Male frogs tremulate to establish dominance and claim the branch or leaf they’re on. They also use this ritual to attract a mate.

10. They Are Camouflage Experts

Red eyed tree frog camouflage
Red eyed tree frog camouflage | image by Eugene Kim via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The red-eyed green tree frog is still an expert at blending into its surroundings, even though its vibrant red eyes and orange feet might seem to give it away. The frog will tuck its bright orange feet under its belly and position itself to hide its vibrant blue sides.

Once the eyes are closed, it’s hidden from predators on a green leaf.

11. Females Lay About 40 Eggs Per Clutch

Females will lay their eggs on a leaf above water. Since they’re nocturnal, the frogs will usually lay eggs between 10 pm, and 2 am.

Female red-eyed tree frogs lay around 40 eggs. She supplies them with water to produce a jelly-like mass to protect them. They hatch within 4 to 6 days.

12. Females Can Mate With Multiple Males

Red eyed tree frog mating
Red eyed tree frog mating | image by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

During mating, male and female red-eyed tree frogs go into amplexus. This is when a male frog “rides” the back of a female until she lays eggs. Then he fertilizes them.

Sometimes, males will wrestle each other off of females. This leads to multiple males fertilizing a female’s clutch of eggs. One clutch can be fertilized by more than one male.

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13. It Takes 2 to 3 Months For Tadpoles To Metamorphosize Into Frogs

Once tadpoles hatch and drop into the water below their leaf, it can take up to 3 months for them to develop into red-eyed tree froglets. The development of tadpoles depends on the conditions of their environment. Tadpoles develop faster in warmer temperatures with access to plenty of food.

14. Their Lifespan Is About 5 Years In The Wild and Longer in Captivity

Red Eyed Tree Frog
Image by Anja-#pray for ukraine# #helping hands# stop the war from Pixabay

Red-eyed tree frogs grow relatively slowly compared to other amphibians. However, they have a pretty short lifespan in the wild and usually fall prey to predators.

These frogs reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years old and only live about 5 years in the wild. They’ve been known to live up to 12 years in captivity.

15. They’re Only Found In Central America

You’re not going to be able to find red-eyed tree frogs just anywhere. They only inhabit the rainforests in Central America.

Red-eyed tree frogs like high humidity in the lower elevation rainforests near a water source like a river or stream. Their habitat ranges from southern Mexico down to Colombia.

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About Jesse Martin
Enthusiast and pet owner

Jesse grew up with pet reptiles and amphibians and has remained close to them into adulthood. He has experience with boa constrictors, pythons, Argentine horned frogs, bearded dragons, geckos, tortoises, and more. Jesse's daughter currently has a corn snake, her first pet reptile.