Green Tree Frog
The Australian green tree frog (Litoria caerulea) is a species native to Australia, although it can be found in parts of New Guinea. Wild populations have also been artificially introduced to New Zealand and the United States. The species is abundant in its native locations and shares some similarities with its relatives: the giant tree frog and the magnificent tree frog. Green tree frogs are easily spotted near human homes as the lights at night make it easy for them to locate and eat insects. The green tree frog has become a popular pet throughout many regions of the world.
The green tree frog is of the Hylidae family in the order of Anura. Like dozens of other native Australian frogs, it is of the genus Litoria. Litoria caerulea is often referred to as White’s tree frog because it was John White who first recorded a description of the species in 1790. It was the first frog in Australia to enjoy scientific classification.
Green tree frogs only grow to a maximum length of 10 centimetres. Their actual colour can range from a light brown to bright green. Their underside is substantially lighter and often white. They may have several irregularly shaped white spots over their bodies. Their limbs end in digits with disc-like tips that act as suction cups for gripping and climbing vertical surfaces. The digits of the forefront appendages have only a slight webbing, but the rear digits have a webbing of approximately three-quarters the length of the digit. Their eyes are a golden colour with wide horizontal irises of black. Behind each eye, on the side of the head, are visible tympanic membranes that act as organs of hearing.
As tadpoles, they are quite small, ranging in length from 8 to 44 millimetres. Tadpoles and young green tree frogs begin brown and later develop their green shade. As they develop into frogs, they grow lungs, but retain the ability to absorb oxygen through their moist skin. To prevent infections on their skin, they secrete antibiotic and antiviral peptides.
Green tree frogs, like many other frog species, are very docile animals. They don’t move around much except in search of moisture and food. They are nocturnal and only sexually active during the warmer months. They prefer to live near bodies of freshwater, and can often be found in the limbs of trees near lakes and ponds. In some climates they will live in tall grasses or reeds if trees are not available. They can often be found near human homes where insects are attracted to the lights at night and where sources of water can often be found, such as in gutters and drainpipes.
When it is time to mate, green tree frogs descend from the branches of trees nearer to the closest source of water. They call for mates with a slow, drawn out “brawk-brawk.” Green tree frogs can also emit a screech to scare off predators and a squeak when in uncomfortable situations. Green tree frogs primarily eat insects and spiders but have been known to eat small mammals and engage in acts of cannibalism. Because they have very small, dull teeth, whatever they eat must be able to be swallowed whole. For insects and smaller prey, they use their fast and sticky tongue, but will pounce and devour larger prey with only the use of their front appendages.
Green tree frogs are popular pets and are advertised as exotic pets in non-native areas. Because they are so docile, they are easy to care for. The only problem some people have with them is overfeeding. If they are overfed and don’t have much room to move, they can quickly become extremely obese. If well cared for, they can live in captivity for up to 20 years.