December 15, 2009

Wallace's Flying Frog

<em>Rhacophorus nigropalmatus</em>

The overachieving Wallace's flying frog wasn't content to just hop and swim. Thousands of years of watching birds navigate the rain forest and avoid predators by taking to the sky appears to have convinced this unique amphibian that air travel is the way to go.

Also known as parachute frogs, Wallace's flying frogs inhabit the dense tropical jungles of Malaysia and Borneo. They live almost exclusively in the trees, descending only to mate and lay eggs.

When threatened or in search of prey, they will leap from a branch and splay their four webbed feet. The membranes between their toes and loose skin flaps on their sides catch the air as they fall, helping them to glide, sometimes 50 feet (15 meters) or more, to a neighboring tree branch or even all the way to the ground. They also have oversized toe pads to help them land softly and stick to tree trunks.

Wallace's flying frogs are not the only frogs who have developed this ability, but they are among the largest. The black color of their foot webbing helps distinguish them from their similarly aerial cousins.

They are generally bright green with yellow sides and grow to about 4 inches (10 centimeters). They survive mainly on insects.

The Wallace's flying frog population is considered stable, and they have special status only in certain localities. However, they are partial to breeding and laying eggs in the fetid wallowing holes of the nearly extinct Asian rhinoceros, and further decreases in rhino populations may negatively affect the species.

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