Smilisca phaeota is a relatively large hylid frog with adult size reaching up to 78 mm (Leenders 2001). This frog can be easily be distinguished, since it is the only large tree frog in Costa Rica that has both a silvery white stripe on the upper lip and a dark, masklike stripe from the nostril to the insertion of the arms (Guyer 2005). Many individuals have a green spot on each side of the head between the dark mask and the lip (Leenders 2001). Coloration can range from pale green to tan, and the frog may either be uniform in color or have dark olive green to dark brown dorsal blotches (Savage 2002). It has a relatively flattened body (Leenders 2001), and a smooth dorsal surface (Savage 2002). The head is as wide as it is long, with a snout that is bluntly rounded from above (Savage 2002). It has skinlike webbing between the toes and fingers and an enlarged disk on each finger that is adhesive. The eardrums (tympana) are visible. The eyes are large, with horizontal elliptical pupils and copper colored irises (Leenders 2001).
Tadpoles are moderately sized and can reach 30 mm in length. They have a robust body, anteroventral mouth, dorsolateral nostrils, dorsolateral eyes, lateral spiracle, and a rounded tail tip (Savage 2002).
Smilisca phaeota is capable of changing color. It can change the color of its upper surface to tan or green. They are usually tan during the day and change to green during the night (Leenders 2001). Similar species include:1) Smilisca baudinii, which differs from S. phaeota by the former's lack of reticulate flanks and white stripes on the lip, forearm, and leg. 2)Smilisca puma, which is smaller and has little or no webbing (Savage 2002).
A Spanish-language species account can be found at the website of Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio).
Distribution and Habitat
Smilisca phaeota can be found in the Caribbean slopes from Honduras to northern Colombia and the Pacific slopes from Costa Rica to Ecuador (Guyer 2005). It primarily inhabits lowland rainforest, up to 3,300 ft in elevation (Leenders 2001). It is common in areas disturbed by humans, such as storm drains and around laboratory buildings (Guyer 2005).
Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
Species description based on Savage (2002). A large treefrog (males to 66 mm, females to 78 mm).
Dorsal coloration varies from light green to light brown. Most individuals have large darker green or brown irregularly-shaped spots on the back. The arms and legs are barred. The sides of the body are light, with extensive dark brown or black vein-like patterning. On the head, there are dark bars running along the upper sides of the snout and the lip is white. The skin of the dorsum is smooth.
The rear surfaces of the thighs are grey or brown with or without light or dark spots.
The iris is bronze with black reticulations.
The outer edge of the lower arm and leg is lined in white.
Catalog Number: USNM 39899
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Locality: Turbo, Antioquia, Colombia, South America
Habitat and Ecology
Lowland and premontane forest as well as more open, grassy areas (to 1600 m).
Life History and Behavior
A low, growly "wawk" usually repeated two times in a row (Duellman 1970)
Breeding occurs year-round after heavy rains (Savage 2002). Males call from hiding places under vegetation at shallow ponds or puddles, slow streams, as well as in ditches (Savage 2002).
Large numbers of eggs (up to 2,000) are laid as a surface film (Savage 2002). The eggs are black and cream (Savage 2002).
The tadpole body is oval, with a moderate tail and moderate tail fins (Savage 2002). The dorsum is light brown, with a white crescent-shaped mark just under the head (Savage 2002). Some darker spots or flecks are usually present on the tail (Savage 2002). The ventral surface is pale with some dark brown flecking (Savage 2002).
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Smilisca phaeota
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Smilisca phaeota
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 28
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
These frogs are mainly active during the night and throughout the wet season (Savage 2002). During the day, they sleep on the upper surface of large leaves, but have also been found sleeping on top of large tree ferns or in rolled-up banana leaves. In the mating season, males produce a loud and harsh "wrauk" at dusk. They call from the water surface of small rain pools. Females lay small clumps of up to 2,000 eggs to form a small thin layer on the water surface. Since females lay their eggs in small rain pools, tadpoles must develop rapidly to avoid desiccation (Leenders 2001). This frog presumably preys on arthropods (Guyer 2005).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
These frogs are common (Savage 2002).
New Granada cross-banded tree frog
The New Granada cross-banded tree frog (Smilisca phaeota, also known as the masked tree frog) is a species of frog in the Hylidae family found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, rivers, freshwater marshes, intermittent freshwater marshes, plantations, rural gardens, urban areas, heavily degraded former forests, ponds, and canals and ditches.
- Solís, F., Ibáñez, R., Chaves, G., Wilson, L.D., Morales, M. & Lynch, J. 2004. Smilisca phaeota. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 22 July 2007.
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