Diagnosis: Agalychnis lemur can be distinguished from other Costa Rican green treefrogs by having a vertical pupil and lacking digital webbing (Savage 2002).
Description: Agalychnis lemur is a moderately-sized green treefrog, with adult males measuring 30-41 mm in SVL and adult females measuring 39-53 mm in SVL. The head is equally broad as long, with a short, truncate snout when viewed from above and a vertical snout in lateral view. Eyes are large, with a lower eyelid that lacks reticulation. The tympanum is distinct and moderately-sized, with a diameter no more than half the diameter of the eye. Fingers have small discs, with the disc on Finger III slightly wider than the tympanum. Single subarticular tubercles are present. Thenar pad is moderately enlarged and the palmar tubercle is small, rounded, and flattened. A weak ulnar fold runs from the elbow to the tip of Finger IV. Toes usually lack webbing, or at most have slight webbing between Toes III and IV. Toe V has a slight outer fringe. Weakly developed plantar tubercles are present. The inner metatarsal tubercle is low and elliptical, while the outer metatarsal tubercle is absent. No distinct tarsal fold is present. Heel occasionally has a single tiny tubercle but no calcar or well-developed heel tubercle is present. The dorsum is smooth and the venter is granular. Adult males have a single, barely distensible internal median subgular vocal sac, with two elongate paired vocal slits, and a brownish non-spinous nuptial pad on the base of each thumb (Savage 2002).
Coloration in life: This species exhibits metachrosis. Dorsal surfaces are generally pale green by day and various shades of reddish brown, lavender brown, or orange tan by night. Forearm is dark yellow on the upper surface. Anterior and posterior thigh surfaces are orange. Flanks are yellow to orange. Venter is a creamy white. Iris is silvery white (Savage 2002).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama
This species occurs in Costa Rica and Panama, and marginally in Colombia. Populations of this species now occur only in a few localities in Costa Rica, including Fila Asunción, 15 km southwest of Limón (an abandoned farm); in a forested area near Parque Nacional Barbilla in Cartago and Limón; and Guayacán (in Limón Province). Agalychnis lemur is generally found in humid lowland and montane primary forests. It is not associated with degraded habitats. The eggs are usually deposited on leaf surfaces and the larvae are washed off or fall into water below the site of oviposition. Its altitudinal range is 440 - 1,600 m asl (Stuart et al. 2008).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Agalychnis lemur is a nocturnal tree frog, active throughout most of the year. It sleeps on the undersides of leaves during the day, and begins activity after dusk. It rarely jumps but is usually a slow climber on leaves or twigs. This frog approaches its prey slowly and pounces from about 50 to 60 mm away, while continuing to grip the perch with its feet (Savage 2002).
Advertisement calls consist of a very short "tick" repeated every 25 seconds. Call durations are 190 - 200 milliseconds, with 39 - 41 pulses per second. This species is territorial and A. lemur will emit an encounter call of 2 - 4 pulses when another male is nearby. A release call can also be produced. Males are aggressive in defending their territory, with resident males clasping intruder males and unreceptive females and trying to push them off the perch (Savage 2002).
Reproductive season is concentrated in the rainy months between April to July (Savage 2002). Amplectant pairs lay eggs generally onto the top of leaf surfaces above water (Savage 2002). In captivity, clutches consisted of 15 to 30 green eggs (Savage 2002); at Río Blanco, Limon, Costa Rica, field-laid clutches consisted of 22.5 +/- 2.1 eggs (N=4) (Gomez-Mestre et al. 2008). Females may produce two or three clutches in one night or may lay clutches on separate nights (Savage 2002). Egg masses are deposited in a single layer or double layer (Savage 2002), with clutch thickness measuring 7.1 +/-0.3 mm (Gomez-Mestre et al. 2008). Eggs measure 3.0 to 3.5 mm in diameter, inside gelatinous capsules of 5 -6 mm in diameter (Savage 2002). Hatching occurs 7 -14 days after fertilization (Savage 2002). Embryos are light green and fall into the water below or are washed there by rain (Savage 2002).
Metamorphosis takes place 69 - 98 days post-fertilization, when green pigment first develops. Metamorphs also show metachrosis (color changes between day and night), but lack the orange or yellow flank coloration (Savage 2002).
Moderately sized tadpole, with stage 30 larvae measuring about 42 mm in total length. The body is ovoid, with a moderate tail having reduced tail fins and a pointed tip. Eyes are dorsolateral and directed laterally. Nares are dorsolateral and directed anterolaterally. The mouth is anteroventral, with a small, entire oral disc, serrated beaks, and 2/3 rows of denticles. A2 has a slight median gap. Two or three rows of papillae are present, lateral and ventral to the mouth (Savage 2002).
Coloration: The tadpole's body is purple-gray, with a creamy yellow venter suffused with pink. Dark flecks and mottling are present on the venter, flanks and tail musculature. The fins are mostly transparent but have some dark flecking on the anterior. The larval iris is gold (Savage 2002).
Larvae are suspension-raspers, feeding both in the water column and on the bottom (Savage 2002).
Trends and Threats
This species is uncommon and has suffered massive declines, likely from chytridiomycosis. Brem and Lips (2008) reported that A. lemur had disappeared by 2003 from a transect in Parque Nacional Santa Fe, Panama, where it was formerly common; this area experienced a major chytridiomycosis outbreak in 2003, with multiple species vanishing and/or declining significantly in numbers. Recent studies by Woodhams et al. (2006) found that among the species they studied, A. lemur showed somewhat more resistance to infection with chytridiomycosis. However, by 2010, A. lemur could no longer be found in El Copé, Panama (Lips, personal communication).
Agalychnis lemur has successfully been bred in captivity by the Atlanta Zoo, which has distributed hundreds of F1 offspring to multiple facilities in three different countries (Gagliardo et al. 2008).
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Species authority: Boulenger (1882).
Originally placed in the genus Phyllomedusa, subsequently into Hylomantis by Faivovich et al. (2005), and most recently Agalychnis (Faivovich et al. 2010).
Agalychnis lemur is a member of the subfamily Phyllomedusinae. Phyllomedusine frogs produce many skin-secreted peptides, with more than 80 peptides from this group characterized as having antimicrobial activity (Amiche et al. 2008). A. lemur has also proven to be a rich source of skin-secreted peptides with differential cytolytic activity. Three of its skin-secreted peptides have been characterized: phylloseptin-L1 shows inhibition of growth of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and inhibition of the gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (Conlon et al. 2007); dermaseptin-L1 shows inhibition of growth of Bd and of the gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli, or E. coli (Conlon et al. 2007); and phylloseptin-L2, which was shown to stimulate insulin release in rat cells (Abdel-Wahab et al. 2008). Phylloseptin-L2 might thus be valuable to develop into a therapeutic agent for treating Type 2 diabetes (Abdel-Wahab et al. 2008). In addition, dermaseptin-L1 showed fivefold greater selectivity for HepG2 human hepatoma-derived neoplastic cells over erythrocytes, suggesting that this particular peptide might also have potential for engineering as an anti-cancer agent (Conlon et al. 2007). Because A. lemur's peptides have potential anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetes functions (and so few of the peptides it produces have yet been studied), it should be considered an important species in human medicinal research and priority should be given to conservation of its rapidly disappearing population (Conlon et al. 2007).
Karyotype is 2N = 26 (León 1969).
A Spanish-language species account can be found at the website of Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio).
Abdel-Wahab, Y. H. A., Power, G. J., Flatt, P. R., Woodhams, D. C., Rollins-Smith, L. A., and Conlon, J. M. (2008). ''Hylomantis lemur (Phyllomedusinae) with potent in vitro and in vivo insulin-releasing activity.'' Peptides, 29, 2136-2143.
Amiche, M., Ladram, A., and Nicolas, P. (2008). ''A consistent nomenclature of antimicrobial peptides isolated from frogs of the subfamily Phyllomedusinae.'' Peptides, 29, 2074-2082.
Boulenger, G.A. (1882). Catalogue of the Batrachia Salientia s. Ecaudata in the Collection of the British Museum, Ed. 2. Taylor and Francis, London.
Brem, F. R. and Lips, K. (2008). ''Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection patterns among Panamanian amphibian species, habitats and elevations during epizootic and enzootic stages.'' Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 81, 189-202.
Conlon, J. M., Woodhams, D. C., Raza, H., Coquet, L., Leprince, J., Jouenne, T., Vaudry, H., and Rollins-Smith, L. A. (2007). ''Peptides with differential cytolytic activity from skin secretions of the lemur leaf frog Hylomantis lemur (Hylidae: Phyllomedusinae).'' Toxicon, 50, 498-506.
Faivovich, J., Haddad, C. F. B., Baêta, D., Jungfer, K.-H., Álvares, G. F. R., Brandão, R. A., Sheil, C. A., Barrientos, L. S., Barrio-Amorós, C. L., Cruz, C. A. G., and Wheeler, W. C. (2010). '' The phylogenetic relationships of the charismatic poster frogs, Phyllomedusinae (Anura, Hylidae).'' Cladistics, 26, 227-261.
Faivovich, J., Haddad, C. F. B., Garcia, P. C. A., Frost, D. R., Campbell, J. A., Wheeler, W. C. (2005). ''Systematic review of the frog family Hylidae, with special reference to Hylinae: phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (294), 1-240. [link]
Gagliardo, R., Crump, P., Griffith, E., Mendelson, J., Ross, H., and Zippel, K. (2008). ''The principles of rapid response for amphibian conservation, using the programmes in Panama as an example.'' International Zoo Yearbook, 42(1), 125-135.
Gomez-Mestre, I., Wiens, J. J., and Warkentin, K. M. (2008). ''Evolution of adaptive plasticity: risk-sensitive hatching in neotropical leaf-breeding treefrogs.'' Ecological Monographs, 78, 205-224.
León, P. (1969). ''Report of the chromosome numbers of some Costa Rican anurans.'' Revista Biologia Tropical, 17(1), 119-124.
Savage, J. M. (2002). The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica:a herpetofauna between two continents, between two seas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, USA and London.
Woodhams, D. C., Voyles, J., Lips, K. R., Carey, C., and Rollins-Smith, L. A. (2006). ''Predicted disease susceptibility in a Panamanian amphibian assemblage based on skin peptide defenses.'' Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 42, 207-218.
Originally submitted by: Christine Isabel Javier and Kellie Whittaker (first posted 2009-11-02)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker, updated Ann T. Chang, Michelle S. Koo (2022-08-16)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2022 Agalychnis lemur: Lemur Leaf Frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/655> 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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