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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Van Vliet's Frog

Van Vliet's Frog is one of several names of this species (Smilisca baudinii) common to areas with permanent water in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Also called the Mexican Tree Frog, it is truly arboreal, and uses "sticky" flat foot pads for adhesion rather than claws, which also make smooth house walls ideal microhabitat for this animal. Rain keeps things wet throughout the area six or seven months a year, but there are five months without surface water in many places in the reserve. Standing water is common, however, around houses and other structures, the lake itself, and a handful of creeks which flow into the lake. This species commonly enters Estacion Biologica, as did the one pictured below.

Nature photography Nicaragua
Van Vliet's Frog (Smilisca baudinii) on a wall at Estacion Biologica, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
This individual shows two ticks in the above photo, on the left side of the abdomen. Almost all frogs of this species have this coloration in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, with a camouflage-like pattern on the back, and leopard stripes on the legs. 
Laguna de Apoyo wildlife photography
Smilisca baudinii in Estacion Biologica, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
Smilisca baudinii is found in several disjunct populations from southern Texas to Costa Rica, placing our population near the southern edge of the overall species range. The species is generally common where found, but great regional variation has been noted, in fact this variation has led to some populations being described erroneously as unique species. In our area, we recently documented an interesting color variation, a so-called "light phase" (see below).

nature tourism and photography Nicaragua
Smilisca baudinii light (green) phase, Estacion Biologica, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. 
 This individual was sighted on a wall in Estacion Biologica and no one could identify it at first sighting. Some colors, particularly the markings on the inferior side of the animal, were more accentuated, whereas the back was completely covered in a vibrant green. In some populations, the so-called "light" phase is actually lighter than the more common mottled patterned individual, but ours is actually considerably darker and brighter.

In the photo above, one can appreciate the camouflage pattern muted by the bright green coloration.
The Van Vliet's Frog is a good jumper, and can be seen easily at night during hard rains, jumping on the ground, although it prefers vertical surfaces when dry.
Nicaragua Spanish School
Van Vliet's Frog (Smilisca baudinii) in Estacion Biologica, Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. 
wildlife nature
Smilisca baudinii escaping Jeffrey's grip.
Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve can be a great place to observe wildlife. Ecotour companies regularly make excursions in our area. If you are interested in making a nature tour in the area, you are welcome to contact us.
Mexican tree frog in Nicaragua
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