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Frog Weather

Phil Torres


Phyllomedusa palliata hanging from a leaf near Posada Amazonas.

Phyllomedusa palliata hanging from a leaf near Posada Amazonas.

Image by Phil Torres

Ask any field biologist who has worked with frogs: there is such a thing as frog weather. I have been on easily over 100 night surveys in the rainforest in search of frogs and it doesn’t take long to notice a pattern emerge uniting the weather with your success in the night’s excursion. 

Frogs, especially here in the rainforest, require moisture for activity and flock temporary pools/swamps of water to reproduce and lay eggs. I was last here in Tambopata during the dry season when there were very few temporary pools, so many of the frogs were hard to spot and likely hanging out up in the canopy rather than being more visible closer the dry ground. But now, it is rainy season. Frog season.


Frog eggs with developing tadpoles inside in Tambopata

Frog eggs with developing tadpoles inside.

Image by Phil Torres

The perfect weather scenario for frogs based upon my observations: No rain for two to three days. Then, moderate to heavy rain that day, clear weather for a couple hours as the sun sets, and no rain to light drizzle at night. I often look at the leaves to tell me how many frogs will be out- do the leaves look dry and dusty or dewy and glistening? If it’s the latter, you have a pretty good chance of spotting a frog- or dozens of frogs- that night. 

 If the rain is too heavy at night, there will be few frogs visible. The males come down closer to the ground at night and call to females to reproduce- what’s the point in calling for a mate if they can’t hear you through the rain? This also helps researchers- you can identify frogs and their activity based upon the amount of calling. 


Phyllomedusa camba in the amazon rainforest

Phyllomedusa camba
Image by Phil Torres

 So why should you go look for frogs? For one, they are quite photogenic, typically sit still, and make for great rainforest wildlife photos. Secondly, consider one of the reasons biologists go looking for them: frogs can be bioindicators. Meaning, a healthy frog population typically means a healthy environment. Many frogs breathe at least partially through their highly permeable skin, so if there are a lot of pollutants in the water the frog populations may be the first to be affected. 

Also, many species of frogs are in decline due the chytrid fungus. Thus, the sad reality is that the frog extinction rate is much higher than many other animals, so you may not have long to photograph some of the more unique or rare species. Tambopata has been tested recently and no chytrid fungus was detected, so you’ll be sure to encounter some spectacular hopping frogs during your visit.

 That being said, it is starting to rain here, so let’s hope for another night of frog weather. Happy frogging!


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