White’s Tree Frog

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Litoria caerulea

DIETInsects, spiders, and sometimes even smaller animals such as frogs and mammals

RANGEAustralia’s north and east and also the southern part of New Guinea

HABITATSeasonally dry and wet habitats, although they prefer moist forested environments

White’s Tree Frog

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Program and General Information

White’s tree frogs are an adaptable species native to Australia and New Guinea. A milky white coating called “caerviein” helps them survive in dry areas, allowing them to live in agricultural and suburban areas. Adults tend to have a fatty ridge above each eye, often giving them a sleepy appearance.

Common Physical Features

White’s Tree Frogs are rather large frogs and are generally around 3-5 inches in length. They have the ability to change color, though they are commonly a light bluish green to emerald green. The skin is covered with a thick cuticle that allows it to retain moisture as an adaptation to arid areas. They have large webbed toes and a second finger that is longer than the first. Their pupils are horizontal with a distinctive fatty ridge over the eyes. Males are more slender in appearance than females and have a grayish wrinkled vocal sac that is located underneath the throat region. While they are primarily nocturnal, they have been known to be active during the daytime.

Habitat and Global Range

Native to Australia’s north and east and also the southern part of New Guinea, this animal can live in seasonally dry and wet habitats, although they prefer moist forested environments. They have also been found living in suburban and agricultural areas with humans.

Diet

White’s tree frogs eat insects, spiders, moths, roaches and sometimes even smaller animals such as frogs and mammals.

Behavior and Life Cycle

For most of the year, they call from high positions, such as trees and gutters. During mating season, the frogs descend, although they remain slightly elevated, and call close to still-water sources, whether temporary or permanent. Like many frogs, White’s tree frogs call not only to attract a mate, but also to advertise their location outside the mating season, usually after rain, for reasons that are uncertain to researchers. They emit a stress call whenever they are in danger, such as when predators are close or when a person steps on a log in which a frog resides. Females can lay clutches of 150-300 eggs which hatch in 1-3 days after fertilization. Metamorphosis occurs in 2-3 weeks on average.

Fun Facts

  • Said to be able to alter how much water evaporates from their skin, they may be able to slightly control their temperature (impressive for a cold blooded animal)
  • The scientific name “caerulea” means “blue” in latin
  • Extracts from the skin have medical uses such as fighting staphylococcus bacteria that can cause abscesses, lowering blood pressure and treating cold sores caused by the herpes virus.

Conservation Messaging

Australian law gives protected status to the White’s tree frog—along with all Australian fauna—under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The IUCN lists it as a “least concern” species, given its broad range and population, balanced habitats, and because it is likely not declining fast enough for more threatened status. Some of the tree frog’s natural habitat has been destroyed. However, because of the long life expectancy of this species, any effects of a reduced reproduction rate will take longer to spot than they would in a species with a shorter life expectancy. In addition, these frogs have been found to be infected with Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (BD) chytrid fungus, causing chytridiomycosis. The fungus thickens keratinized areas of amphibians, such as the mouthparts of tadpoles and the keratin in the skin of adults, preventing the healthy transfer of oxygen and other gases across amphibians’ skin. While more species are affected by habitat loss than BD chytrid fungus, the disease causes sudden and dramatic population declines that can lead to rapid extinction.

Research pets before you purchase them to ensure they are not being removed from their wild populations. Wash any items you take in waterways (i.e. boats, shoes) can prevent the spread of BD Chytrid fungus and help save amphibians everywhere.