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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2023



Brown Tree Frog

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5


Species : Polypedates megacephalus
Size (snout to vent) :
These three specimens approx 5 cm.

The Brown Tree Frog, or Spot-legged Tree Frog, was formerly subsumed in the Polypedates leucomystax (Four-lined Tree Frog) species complex. However, Matsui et al. (1986) determined that the Brown Tree Frog Polypedates megacephalus was genetically a different species.

This frog inhabits a range of mainly disturbed habitats including secondary forest, scrub, grassland and agricultural areas. It has been reported up to elevations of around 1500 metres or more. It is a typical foam nest builder, and breeds next to still water including man-made water bodies such as ponds and ditches.

Visually this species clearly differs from the Four-lined Tree Frog by having a more robust body shape and a relatively larger head. In common with the Four-lined Tree Frog it is long limbed, with markedly expanded disks on its finger and toes. As is typical for the genus, the hind feet have extensive webbing and the forefeet are unwebbed.

Typical colouration comprises light brown to yellowish brown skin with faint darker blotches. The three specimens illustrated here, from Siem Reap, Cambodia, all have a large orange-brown patch in the middle of the back. There is often a narrow dark stripe behind the eye, which breaks up into sparse black spots further along the flank. The skin hidden behind the hind legs has numerous black spots on a pale base.

This is a wide-ranging species which is confirmed as occurring in southern China (including Hong Kong), Vietnam and Thailand (Kuraishi et al, 2013). It probably also occurs in Laos and Cambodia, and has been introduced to the Pacific Ocean islands of Okinawa (Japan) and Guam.

Figs 1 and 2 : Two brownish specimens of Polypedates  on tree trunks at Siem Reap, Cambodia: these are probably Polypedates megacephalus.

Fig 3 : Close-up of the hind leg and foot showing the black spotted patterning on the hidden part of the thigh.

Fig 4 : Yellowish-brown specimen from Khao Yai, central Thailand.

Fig 5 : Specimen from Hanoi, Vietnam.

References :

Kuraishi, N., Matsui, M., Hamidy, A., Belabut, D. M., Ahmad, N., Panha, S., Sudin, A., Yong, H. S., Jiang, J-P., Ota, H., Ho, T. T. & Nishikawa, A. (2013). Phylogenetic and taxonomic relationships of the Polypedates leucomystax complex (Amphibia). Zoologica Scripta, 42(1), 54-70

Matsui, M., Seto, T. and Utsunomiya, T. (1986). Acoustic and karyotypic evidence for specific separation of Polypedates megacephalus from P. leucomystax. Journal of Herpetology 20: 483-489.

Thanks to Leong Tzi Ming for assistance.