Dendropsophus leucophyllatus is a small to medium-sized tree frog with an average snout-vent length of 29.7 mm in males and 37.9 mm in females. It has an axillary membrane that reaches halfway to the elbow, webbing at the base of fingers, webbed feet, a single palmar tubercle, and moderate pectoral patches (Caminer et al 2017).
The two most similar species to D. leucophyllatus are D. arndti and D. triangulum. Dendropsophus leucophyllatus can be differentiated from both by its clear elliptical leaf-shaped sacral mark. Their advertisement call also differs by D. leucophyllatus having shorter pulsed trill notes at the start of their call. This species can also be differentiated from D. reticulatus by D. leucophyllatus having a larger size (Caminer et al. 2017).
Its coloration in life varies from brown to dark brown with bright yellow or white dorsolateral bands extending to the tip of the snout. There's a leaf-shaped mark on the sacrum that is also bright yellow or white, and there are two bright yellow or white bands cover its shank, which also may be fused and cover the leg completely. Some individuals may have a reticulated color pattern. The ventrum and webbing may be red, orange or pink. The eyes are large, round and prominent with dull or coppery bronze irises (Caminer et al 2017).
Individuals vary in both coloration and patterning. The dorsal coloration varies from brown to dark brown, with yellow or white dorsolateral bands that extend to the tip of the snout. Some individuals also have a thin, brown line that crosses the sacral mark perpendicularly. There’s one to two rounded white spots on the dorsal surface of each forearm, and there’s one to three long ovoid bands on each shank, which are sometimes fused together to cover the whole surface. The ventrum and webbing vary between red, orange, and pink. Some individuals in the eastern part of the Guianas, east of the Approuagues Riverhave a light, dorsal reticulated pattern that is unique to their populations. In preservation, they have dark round marks along the dorsum, sides of the head, and in life, the dorsal surfaces of the limbs are on a bright yellow or white background instead of the usual brown (Caminer et al. 2017).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname
This species is found in the northern Brazilian Amazonia, Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana ranging in elevation from sea level to 400 m at Grande Montagne Tortue, Guyana. They have been observed in permanent or semi-permanent ponds along roads or in pristine moist rainforest, large coastal swamps, and at the edges of forest savannas (Caminer et al. 2017).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
They have been found perching above water from a few centimeters to several meters above in the tree canopy (Caminer et al. 2017).
The advertisement call of D. leucophyllatus is one pulsed trill note followed by one or two secondary notes that are shorter and have less pulses than the first note. The aggressive call has three to five notes that are the same as the second type of notes in the advertisement call, except they’re longer in duration (Caminer et al. 2017).
Eggs are deposited on the tips of leaves over water in clutches of 570 - 769 eggs (Schiesari et al. 2022).
The eggs hatch into exotrophic tadpoles that drop into lentic water. At Gosner stage 39, the tadpole body has an elongated oval shape when viewed dorsally and a triangular and depressed shape when viewed laterally. The eyes are medium sized and are positioned laterally. The nostrils are small, round, and are positioned laterally to the snout with the opening directed anterolaterally, and there is no projection on the marginal rim. The spiracle is single, sinistral, conical, positioned lateroventrally, and is short and wide. The dorsal fin is shallow, slightly convex, and it originates at the tail-body junction. The ventral fin has a moderate height and is slightly convex. The lateral line is visible, and the tail has flagellum (Schiesari et al. 2022).
In life, the dorsum varies from brown to copper and the venter is a silvery black color. There are two broad longitudinal stripes, one black at eye-level and one silver just below the first one, that run along the sides of the body. The tail fin is transparent except for the heavily pigmented middle third. It has been noted that newly-hatched tadpoles in Brazil are yellow-brown and have a dark brown stripe on the tail with a gold strip above it, along with clear fins and gold eyes (Schiesari et al. 2022).
In preservative, the body and caudal musculature are a dark brown color with a broad and dark longitudinal stripe from the snout to the eyes. The fins are pigmented and the tail has translucent spots on the posterior third (Schiesari et al. 2022).
Trends and Threats
Dendropsophus leucophyllatus has a very large range with extensive areas of undisturbed or protected forest, so there are little threats to this species (Caminer et al. 2017).
Relation to Humans
Dendropsophus leucophyllatus is in the international pet trade, but not at levels that constitute a major threat (IUCN 2004).
In a 2017 study using Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian analyses of both mtDNA and nucDNA, two new species in the Dendropsophus leucophyllatus species complex were described: Dendropsophus arndti and D. vraemi. Other members of the complex include D. leucophyllatus, D. triangulum, and D. reticulatus. Dendropsophus leucophyllatus was found to be sister to D. triangulum. The study also limited D. leucophyllatus to the northeastern region of South America based on their molecular analysis (Caminer et al. 2017).
This species was featured in the News of the Week April 25, 2022:
Frogs and toads have large, prominent eyes and many visually-guided behaviors, making them an exciting group in which to study the evolution of vision. Some frogs, such as the Clown Tree Frog, Dendropsophus leucophyllatus, have spectral filters in the lenses of their eyes that block short wavelengths of light (e.g., UV), with important implications for how they see in low light and the resolution of their vision. Thomas et al. (2022) measured the spectral transmission of light through the ocular lenses of 85 species of frogs and salamanders and tested whether shortwave filtering was associated with ecology. They found that day-active frogs more commonly evolve lenses that filter out shortwave light, which should protect the retinas of diurnal species from damage and improve visual acuity in bright environments. Night-active species usually had more transparent lenses, likely to maximize sensitivity in dim light. However, despite being mostly nocturnal, scansorial species that typically climb up into plants show selection for stronger shortwave filtering in their lenses than species that tend to be found on the ground or in water. Climbing frogs may sacrifice sensitivity for resolution to navigate their complex arboreal environments. (Written by Katie Thomas)
Caminer MA, Mila B, Jansen M, Fouquet A, Venegas PJ, Chavez G, Lougheed SC, and Ron SR. (2017). Systematics of the Dendropsophus leucophyllatus species complex (Anura: Hylidae): Cryptic diversity and the description of two new species. PLoS ONE, 12(3), e0171785.
Claudia Azevedo-Ramos, Robert Reynolds, Luis A. Coloma, and Santiago Ron. (2004). Dendropsophus leucophyllatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T55537A11328895. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2004.RLTS.T55537A11328895.en. Accessed on 25 September 2023.
Schiesari, L. C., D. de C. Rossa-Feres, M. Menin, and W. Hödl. (2022). Tadpoles of Central Amazonia (Amphibia: Anura). Zootaxa 5223: 1–149. [link]
Thomas, K.N., Gower, D.J., Streicher, J.W., Bell, R.C., Fujita, M.K., Schott, R.K., Liedtke, H.C., Haddad, C.F.B., Becker, C.G., Cox, C.L., Martins, R.A., and Douglas, R.H. (2022). Ecology drives patterns of spectral transmission in the ocular lenses of frogs and salamanders. Functional Ecology, 35(4), 850-864.
Originally submitted by: Michelle S. Koo (2022-04-24)
Edited by: Michelle S. Koo (2023-10-05)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2023 Dendropsophus leucophyllatus: Clown Tree Frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/847> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Dec 5, 2023.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 5 Dec 2023.
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