The terrible leafcreeper is one of the smallest frogs in the world. It has a bright color, lives exclusively in tropical forests. The leaf climber has many distinctive features that distinguish it from other frogs. Also, this creature received the title of “terrible” for a reason.
Origin of the species and description
The terrible leaf climber got its name not by chance – this little frog is one of the most poisonous creatures on the planet. Its poison is batrachotoxin, which quickly paralyzes the respiratory organs and heart. The frog belongs to the genus of leaf frogs, to the family of poison dart frogs. The genus of leaf climbers is known for its poisonous qualities. One leaf climber is capable of producing up to 500 micrograms of poison per day, which is a lot, given the small size of the representatives of the genus.
An interesting fact: Most of the substances included in this poison are produced thanks to the diet of these frogs, so in captivity they partly lose their toxicity.
The frogs are covered with mucus that can be absorbed into skin and cause negative consequences. Upon contact with the skin, the poison will cause death or may provoke various kinds of complications with the work of the respiratory system. Upon contact with the mucous membrane, stomach or blood, the poison acts immediately. After contact with such a frog, you should at least wash your hands. All frogs of the genus have a bright, warning color.
Thanks to this color they:
- camouflage in the tropical forest among green plants, flowers and fruits;
- warn large predators that can kill a frog that it is poisonous, and its death will entail consequences in the form of the death of a predator.
The terrible leaf climber belongs to the family of poison dart frogs. Contrary to the name, they can live not only on trees, but also in fields, residential areas, pastures and plantations. Frogs of the family prefer a humid climate, although they do not live in water or near large water sources. Due to the bright color, representatives of the poison dart frog family are not afraid of predators. They are only active during the day and sleep in their shelters at night.
Appearance and Features
Terrible leaf climber is one of the smallest members of the family. Its maximum size reaches 4 cm. The color of the frog is acidic, bright: yellow, light green, light green, orange, bordering on red. Sometimes there are pale white specimens.
It is not difficult for predators to notice such a frog in an open area, but the leaf climber warns of its own toxicity with its color. Sometimes frogs show black stripes on their front legs and head near the eyes. If the frog is already old, black round specks of various sizes may appear on its body.
Video: Terrible leafcreeper
and sometimes the shade reaches milky white. The eyes are large, black, located on the sides of the head and slightly bulging upwards. Small nostrils at the end of the muzzle are clearly visible.
The Dread Leaf Crawler's fingers are not webbed, making it impossible for the Dread Leaf Crawler to swim. But at the end of each finger there is a round seal – suction cups, with the help of which the frog moves along vertical surfaces. In total, the terrible leaf climbers have four long fingers. Sometimes they are covered with black spots or have a darker shade than the entire body of an individual.
When reproducing sounds, leaf crawlers, like many frogs, inflate the chest sac. On the skin of a terrible leaf climber, one can clearly see the pores that secrete poison – the entire frog is covered with poisonous mucus. This poison does not harm the frogs themselves, as well as other individuals of this family and genus.
Where does the terrible leafcreeper live?
These are tropical frogs that live mainly in the south and west of Colombia. They prefer dense rainforests with lots of vegetation. They live in the lower tiers of the tropics – in grass, flowers, in the roots of trees and plants.
These amphibians can often be seen in the following areas:
- South and Central America;
- Costa Rica;
The terrible leaf climber does not create permanent shelters for himself – at night he is looking for a new home. They usually spend the night under dense leaves, roots, floor with wet stones, burrowing into the damp earth. They can also be seen hiding in stale grass and in cracks in trees, rocks, and earth.
Unlike many other types of frogs, leafcreepers are not waterfowl, although they need moisture. They do not settle near running water, avoid streams and, especially, rivers. This can be justified by their size, since any stream of water can drown such a small individual. But leaf climbers need moisture, so they like to sit where there is a greenhouse effect, as well as swim in large dew drops or rain puddles.
From tropical downpours, frogs hide on the upper tiers of trees, hiding behind wide leaves or in cracks in tree bark.
Fun fact: Local tribes use frog venom to poison arrows.
Dread leafcreepers are territorial creatures that jealously guard borders from members of their own gender. Now you know where the terrible leaf climber frog lives. Let's see what the venomous amphibian eats.
What does the terrible leafcreeper eat?
Dread Leaf Crawlers are very voracious creatures, which is why their metabolism is very fast. Therefore, three days of starvation, which are normally perceived by other frogs, can kill a leaf climber. They constantly need to be fed, there must be digestible food in their stomach.
The daily diet of terrible leaf climbers includes:
- ants, including poisonous ones;
- small beetles;
- small spiders;
The tongue of leaf climbers is not so long – it is approximately the length of the body of a frog. They are sensitive to the slightest movement and are very patient hunters. Hiding in a secluded place, the leaf climber notices the victim and allows her to come as close as possible. Then he throws out his long sticky tongue, catching prey and immediately eating it. Leaf climber tadpoles feed on plant foods and organic debris. They are also able to eat the eggs of other amphibians. The fearsome leaf climber is often kept as a pet. In this case, the frogs are fed twice a day: in the morning and in the evening, as well as living creatures are always found in the terrarium so that the leaf climber can have a bite at any time.
The diet of home leaf climbers usually includes:
- collembulae (small arthropods, often used as food);
- tubifex ;
Such a diet reduces the toxicity of frogs, making them less dangerous to keep in captivity.
Character and lifestyle features
In general, the dire leafcreeper isn't that terrible – they don't attack first and are only poisonous to those who deliberately attack them. Females and males do not have external sexual differences, but they are different in behavior. Males are belligerent against each other. Each male leaf climber has his own area, where three to ten females live. The male mates with these females, protects them from the encroachments of other males.
If another male appears nearby, then the owner of the site begins to demonstrate his skills: he screams piercingly, and his cry is similar to the trill of a bird. Two males can sit opposite each other for hours and belligerently scream. Rarely does it come to a fight – males can bite each other, as well as beat with their paws – this is reminiscent of freestyle wrestling. If the incoming male wins, he drives the owner of the territory away and takes the site for himself along with the harem of females.
Sometimes females can be aggressive towards each other – the reason for this behavior has not yet been identified. They may also yell at each other or even fight, but are usually peaceful. Females calmly move around the site of the male and without consequences can go to other sites in other harems. Despite the territorial way of life, individuals of the terrible leaf climber live quite apart. They do not have common shelters, do not hunt together and do not have any kind of hierarchy.
Each individual spends the whole day hunting – they wait for insects in ambush. At night, they go to shelters – this can be justified by the fact that at night predators may not distinguish the bright warning color of the frog and eat it, which will be deplorable for both. At home, a terrible leaf climber can also be settled in groups of several females or a male with females. They thrive in a terrarium and breed readily.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The terrible leaf climbers have an unusual system of puberty – it depends on the size of the frog, and not on its age. The male, in order to start producing offspring, needs to reach a length of at least 3.7 cm, and the female – 4 cm. These amphibians have a mating season that falls during the rainy season – it is at this time that the frogs huddle in large groups under the leaves and bark trees to hide from the drops.
An interesting fact: The terrible leafcreeper is born non-poisonous, and only with age through food acquires the components that allow it to produce poison.
The male fertilizes all the females of the harem in a given period. Fertilization occurs during the laying of eggs, which remain in moist land under stones or leaves. Most often, females choose bromeliad leaves for laying. There are not many eggs – only about 15-30 pieces, so almost all frogs survive.
The female leaves the clutch immediately after fertilization, leaving it to the male. The male watches over several clutches at once, burying the eggs in the moist ground and protecting them from possible encroachments. Sometimes he even stirs the caviar to distribute the moisture evenly.
After the appearance of tadpoles, the male collects them on his back – they stick to him with the help of mucus and live in it for some time, feeding on substances secreted by the male's skin. Also, future frogs feed on the remains of egg yolk. They are not in any danger on their father's back, so they stay on it for about a week.
Tadpoles can live in water, but there they tend to attack each other and eat relatives. After two weeks, they become full-fledged frogs. It is not known for certain how long the terrible leaf climbers live in the wild, but in captivity and with proper care they live up to 10 years.
The Dire Leaf Climber's Natural Enemies
The terrible leaf climber has almost no natural enemies. Due to its color, predators prefer to bypass this amphibian, because on an instinctive level they understand that a bright color is a sign of danger. Therefore, the leaf climber lives by deliberately attracting the attention of predators and not hiding in secluded places.
But sometimes the following predators can feast on the terrible leaf climber:
- poisonous snakes and lizards, especially nocturnal . They do not distinguish colors, so they can attack the terrible leaf climber without understanding its warning coloration;
- large spiders. Leaf climbers, due to their small size, can get into the web, from which they cannot get out. Poisonous spiders are also vulnerable to frog venom, so both individuals can die;
- small birds, in particular nocturnal ones.
Tadpoles are most often attacked – in streams and reservoirs eat fish, medium-sized birds, lizards, spiders and snakes. Tadpoles are not poisonous, therefore they are a tasty morsel for many representatives of tropical fauna.
The terrible leaf climber does not lead a secretive lifestyle – thanks to its bright color it can be seen from afar, especially when the amphibian sits on the dark bark of a tree. If the leaf climber is attacked by some predator or bird, he begins to scream piercingly. They never run or hide; on the contrary, the terrible leaf climber moves quickly towards the attacker and screams. As a rule, such behavior bears fruit – the predator is hastily removed, because contact with the leaf climber, which persistently moves towards the enemy, is fatal.
Population and species status
Leaf climbers are close to a vulnerable position. There are several reasons for that. For example — deforestation. Tropical forest zones are being actively developed by people, and this is destroying the natural habitat of terrible leaf climbers. Together with the forests, the species that the leaf climber feeds on are being destroyed. Even a three-day fast is detrimental to this amphibian, but they are increasingly left without sufficient food.
Also, climate change — lack of rain, sharp cold snaps and warming have a bad effect on terrible leaf climbers, who are accustomed to certain stable temperatures. Of course, environmental pollution – leafworms are sensitive to production waste.
Reproduction of hostile species such as spiders, snakes and lizards. Due to the lack of other food, they increasingly attack individuals of terrible leaf climbers, which leads to a disruption of the population on both sides. There is a refusal to reproduce. Due to the lack of food and unstable living conditions, leaf crawlers ignore the rainy season and the mating season, which also affects the population.
Trapping leaf climbers as pets. This does not harm the population so much, because in the conditions of the terrarium, terrible leaf frogs live for a long time and breed, however, the capture of wild adults often leads to their aggression towards humans and, accordingly, such frogs are not suitable for living at home.
Dread Leaf Crawler Guard
The terrible leaf climber, along with some other poison dart frogs, is listed in the international Red Book under the status of an endangered species.
The main methods that contribute to the suppression of the extinction of this species are as follows:
- trapping individuals of the terrible leaf climber and relocating it to protected areas, nature reserves;
- breeding leaf climbers in zoos and at home with breeders for the purpose of further release of individuals into the wild;
- artificial control of the population of predators that can threaten the terrible leaf climber;
- taking measures to control or completely suppress the use of pesticides and harmful substances for the growth of crops. They affect the longevity of many animal species, including the dreaded leaf climber.
There are not many measures that can be taken, as mass deforestation and climate change cannot be prevented or are extremely difficult. So far, scientists are studying the nuances of the life of these frogs in order to adapt them to new living conditions in the future. This will allow the terrible leaf climbers to be transported to other territories where they will not be threatened.
The terrible leaf climber is an amazing creature. Despite being one of the most venomous creatures on the planet, they are suitable for living at home. Domestic leafcreepers are peacefully disposed towards people, and thanks to the conditions of captivity, their population maintains stability.