Best foot forward

By AG Staff Writer February 14, 2023
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Small differences in the hands and feet of frogs are clues to big differences in behaviour.

FEET CAN TELL you plenty about the habits of frogs, and reflect amazing adaptations, says Dr Jodi Rowley, at the Australian Museum, who is studying species from Australia and South-East Asia.

A spectacular example of this occurs in flying frogs (e.g. 5, 7, 11, 13), which have enormously enlarged hands and feet, used as parachutes to glide down from the treetops.

Toe-pads are another adaptation to climbing (1, 4, 12, 13, 10, 15), and hanging on in swift-flowing streams (12).

Webbed feet in more aquatic species (2, 6, 8, 9) can be used for swimming. Other frogs with slender toes (3, 14) have no need to swim or climb, and instead stick to the forest floor and slow, shallow streams. “Differences in the feet are useful in identifying species,” Jodi says.

“The colour and extent of webbing, the shape and size of toe-pads and the length of the toes are all used to tell one species from another.”

Pictured above:

TOP ROW: 1. Rhacophorus sp. 2. Odorrana chapaensis 3. Leptolalax sp. 4. Kurixalus sp. 5. Rhacophorus feae

MIDDLE: 6. Rhacophorus sp. 7. Odorrana chapaensis 8. Leptolalax sp. 9. Kurixalus sp. 10. Rhacophorus sp.

BOTTOM: 11. Odorrana sp. 12. Rhacophorus kio 13. Amolops sp. 14. Amolops ricketti 15. Polypedates leucomystax