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These Jungle Frogs May Hold the Key to Life-Changing Medicines


Deep within the Amazon jungle, an incredible group of frogs perches high above the ground. But monkey frogs aren't just eye-catching — they're literally covered in medical secrets yet to be discovered.

So what makes monkey frogs so remarkable, and even potentially life-saving?

These striking animals have unique, chemical-covered skin! Their skin is coated in a protective slime, which is home to an unbelievable array of chemicals. These chemicals probably evolved to shield them from predators, illnesses, and even drying out, but many of the chemicals are amazingly useful to humans, too. Scientists have discovered over 200 unique peptides in the frogs' slime, and they're still finding more! 

Read below to learn just how mind-blowing these Amazonian frogs are. And to check out more otherworldly jungle creatures — and even help with scientific discovery — join in our Wired Amazon project!

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Monkey frog jungle

We spotted this Giant Monkey Frog in the forests around our Tambopata, Peru, lodges.

What are monkey frogs, anyway, and where do they live?

Here in Southern Peru — home to our Rainforest Expeditions jungle lodges — there are about a dozen species of monkey frogs. These tree frogs belong to genus Phyllomedusa. They're called monkey frogs because they crawl along branches like monkeys, rather than hop like a frog! Monkey frogs include large, impressive species like the Giant Monkey Frog, and beautiful types like the Tiger-Striped Monkey Frog.

And just how can they advance medicine?

Forget Spiderman! I think Frogman is more likely to save the world. Scientists discover new chemical peptides on these jungle frogs all the time, and the chemicals have many functions. Take, for instance, the Giant Monkey Frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor). One study looked at the frog's use by indigenous people in the Amazon. They found that placing the frog on burnt skin causes an "increase in physical strength, heightening of senses, resistance to hunger and thirst, exalted capacity to face stress situations." Pretty cool!

Other scientists study monkey frogs' antimicrobial properties. In fact, researchers conduct dozens of studies on the frogs' skin every year, looking for new discoveries and even medicines!

Monkey frog jungle

The Phyllomedusa family of frogs includes many types of monkey frogs. Photo by Lucas Bustamante.

The frog compounds are still in the testing phase, so they're not yet used for medical purposes. That doesn't mean that some humans haven't found a use for them already — legal or not! Recently, a monkey frog became the center of a scandal when it was used to dope race horses  making them both excited and numb. Other rumors have swirled about recreational drug use of the frogs. 

So, while we wait to see what useful compounds these incredible creatures provide, stay away from using the frogs' slime yourself. Many of the chemicals are poisonous, and we don't know their full effects yet. In the meantime, you can explore the Amazon jungle yourself with Rainforest Expeditions.

To discover these fascinating frogs, along with dozens of other incredible species, book your dream trip to the Amazon today! 

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To see more posts by biologist Phil Torres, check out www.TheRevScience.com

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