Vampire Flying Frog
Species Description: Rowley JJL, Duong LTT, Dao, TTA, Stuart BL, Huy HD 2010. A new tree frog of the genus Rhacophorus (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from southern Vietnam. Zootaxa 2727: 45-55.
© 2013 Jodi J. L. Rowley (1 of 8)
Rhacophorus vampyrus has several morphological features that distinguish it from other Rhacophorid species in the Southeast Asia region. This species has a pale tan to brick red dorsum, white throat, chest and belly, the flanks, anterior and posterior surface of thighs are mostly black, grey to black webbing between the fingers and toes, reduced finger webbing and pointed projections at the tibiotarsal articulations. The most notable attribute that sets this species apart is the unique morphology of the tadpole mouthparts, which bear a pair of keratinized hooks, resembling “fangs”, unseen in any other frog species to date (Rowley et al. 2010).
The dorsal surface of Rhacophorus vampyrus is pale copper-brown with faint darker brown mottling along the back of the frog. The dorsolateral surfaces contain very small, sparse, white and darker brown flecks. The dorsal surface of the lower arms, thigh and tibiotarsus are copper-brown with widespread darker brown barring. The dorsal surface of the hands and feet are copper-brown proximally, fading distally to pinkish-cream on the fingers and toes I-II, and grey on fingers III-IV and toes III-V. There is dark grey to black webbing dorsally. The flanks, upper arms, ventral surface of lower arms, anterior and posterior surface of thighs, and ventral surface of crus are black, and there are small irregular white spots within the black coloration on the flanks and upper arms. The ventral surface of the throat, chest and belly are immaculately white except for black mottling extending slightly onto the lateral margins of the chest at the axilla. The ventral surfaces of the toes and fingers are pale grey. The ventral surface of the webbing is grey with dark grey-black margins. The dorsal coloration of this species varies from pale tan (diurnally) to brick red (nocturnally). The iris is pale yellowish gold with a network of fine dark gold reticulations concentrated around the pupil. The color of this species in preservative is the same as in life, but with the dorsum fading to pale tan (Rowley et al. 2010).
Distribution and Habitat
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Reproduction occurs from July to May. Adults of this species are phytotelm breeders that deposit foam nests in small tree-holes, located away from streams or ponds. Nests are generally 30-120 cm above the ground. They produce clutches of up to 250 eggs. During the rainy season between May-July 2010, eight foam nests and/or groups of tadpoles were observed, all in water filled tree-holes, 0.3 - 1.2 m above the ground. The length of development from oviposition to hatching and the length of time required for metamorphosis to occur have not yet been observed. It is unknown if there exists parental care by the males, the females or both. In nests containing tadpoles or metamorphs, there have been up to 10 individuals observed per tree hole. It is currently unknown if the males call but according to Rowley et al. (2012), a male was seen near one nest site on multiple nights. The mode of amplexus is currently unknown as well. Feeding habits in adults have not been observed but an adult female has been observed ovipositing trophic eggs to tadpoles and eggs have been retrieved from the guts of tadpoles, confirming that they are oophagous during the larval stage (Rowley et al. 2012; Vassilieva et al. 2014).
The species is unique among Rhacophorus because its tadpoles and early-stage metamorphs are oophagus and females are known to deposit trophic eggs into the nest to feed young (Rowley et al. 2012, Vassilieva et al. 2014). The tadpoles do not appear to feed on any alternative foodstuffs (Vassilieva et al. 2014).
These tadpoles are oophagous and it is hypothesized that these hooks assist in slicing open unfertilized eggs prior to consumption. The morphology of the tadpole gills is currently unknown because no tadpoles at an early stage of development have yet been observed. In life, the body is uniformly dark brownish grey to medium brown with the tail and fins considerably paler than the body. Preserved tadpoles are uniformly black (Rowley et al. 2012; Vassilieva et al. 2014).
Rowley, J.J.L, Duong, L.T.T, Dao, T. A., Stuart, B.L., Huy, H.D. 2010. A new tree frog of the genus Rhacophorus (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from southern Vietnam. Zootaxa 2727: 45-55.
Rowley, J.J.L.,Tran, D.T.A., Le, D.T.T., Hoang, H.D., Altig, R. 2012. The strangest tadpole: the oophagous, tree-hole dwelling tadpole of Rhacophorus vampyrus (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from Vietnam. Journal of Natural History Vol. 46, Nos. 47-48, 2969-2978.
Originally submitted by: Amanda Radel (first posted 2013-06-19)
Edited by: Ann T. Chang, Michelle S. Koo (2022-08-18)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2022 Rhacophorus vampyrus: Vampire Flying Frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/7611> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Aug 19, 2022.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 19 Aug 2022.
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