Tuesday 21 May
Spiny tree frog (Nyctixalus spinosus)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Spiny tree frog fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Spiny tree frog description
In stark contrast to the greens and browns of many other frogs, the spiny tree frog (Nyctixalus spinosus) is a reddish-tan, covered with small, white-tipped spines. It is from these spines that the species derives both its common and scientific names. There is a large white spot on either side of the head next to the ear drum, and the snout is pointed (2).
Two pairs of spiny crests run above the spiny tree frog’s ear drum and down the centre of the head. The hind limbs are longer than the whole of the rest of the body, and are lightly banded with white. The toes are heavily webbed for propulsion in water, and each toe ends in a large, sticky pad, which enables the spiny tree frog to climb smooth, vertical surfaces such as leaves (2) (3).
Like many other amphibians, the spiny tree frog passes through a tadpole stage. In contrast to the adult frog, tadpoles lack legs, are elongated and have a tail (4). The spiny tree frog tadpole is more flattened in comparison to related species (2), and its body has a purplish tinge (4). The tadpole of this species does not need to feed (2) (5) and so has reduced mouthparts (2). It develops the colour and proportions of the mature frog through the process of metamorphosis (4).Top
Spiny tree frog biology
Almost all adult amphibians are carnivorous, feeding on insects, spiders and other small invertebrates (7). Frogs of the genus Nyctixalus emerge after dark to hunt small insects and spend most of their lives in vegetation off the ground (5).
The spiny tree frog breeds in small pools of water and seems to prefer holes in tree trunks, roughly 1.5 metres above the ground (5). During mating, the male grasps the female around the waist using rough pads on the inside of his thumbs, while the female clings onto the side of the hollow above the water. Each female is likely to distribute her eggs between four or five different sites, producing 30 to 40 large, dark eggs at a time (2).
Newly laid spiny tree frog eggs stick to the inside of the hollow tree trunk (2) (6) about 30 centimetres above the water, and the tadpoles drop into the water after hatching (8). As several different females may use the same pool to lay their eggs, tadpoles of different ages can be found living together (2). The tadpoles of the spiny tree frog develop without feeding, getting all the nutrients and energy they require from a generous store of yolk (5).Top
Spiny tree frog range
The spiny tree frog is only found in the Philippines (6), where it occurs on four of the major islands: Mindanao, Leyte, Bohol and Basilan (1). Its range appears to be patchy, with isolated populations, but this is likely to be due to a lack of data rather than being a reflection of the true distribution (1).Top
Spiny tree frog habitatTop
Spiny tree frog status
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Spiny tree frog threats
The spiny tree frog is known only from a few islands in the Philippines and is principally threatened by habitat destruction. Human activity is clearing and converting land for housing and farming, leaving isolated pockets of forest (1).
Amphibians in the Philippines are also threatened by the devastating fungal disease chytridiomycosis, which is causing high amphibian death rates worldwide (9).Top
Spiny tree frog conservation
There are no specific conservation measures in place for the spiny tree frog, but some populations occur within national parks where land and water resources are managed and damaged habitat is being restored. Populations of spiny tree frogs on Mindanao and Bohol would benefit from improved protection of forest habitat (1).Top
Find out more
Find out more about the conservation of amphibians:
IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group:
Gascon, C., Collins, J.P. Moore, R.D., Church, D.R., McKay, J.E. and Mendelson III, J.R. (2007) Amphibian Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
More information on the Philippines and its conservation:
Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots - Philippines:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- Feeding on flesh.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
- An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
IUCN Red List (July, 2011)
- Brown, W.C. and Alcala, A.C. (1994) Philippine frogs of the family Rhacophoridae. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, 48(9): 185-220.
- Li, J., Rao, D., Murphy, R.W. and Zhang, Y. (2011) The systematic status of Rhacophorid frogs. Asian Herpetology Research, 2(1): 1-11.
- McDiarmid, R.W. and Altig, R. (Eds.) (1997) Tadpoles: The Biology of Anuran Larvae. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
- Wells, K.D. (2007) The Ecology and Behaviour of Amphibians. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
- Inger, R.F. (1999) Distribution of amphibians in southern Asia and adjacent islands. In: Duellman, W.E. (Ed.) Patterns of Distribution of Amphibians: A Global Perspective. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
- Vitt, L.J. and Caldwell, J.P. (2009) Third Edition Herpetology. An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press, London.
- Grosjean, S., Delorme, M., Dubois, A. and Ohler, A. (2008) Evolution of reproduction in the Rhacophoridae (Amphibia, Anura). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 46(2): 169-176.
- Rowley, J., Brown, R., Bain, R., Kusrini, M., Inger, R., Stuart, B., Wogan, G., Thy, N., Chan-ard, T., Trung, C.T., Diesmos, A., Iskandar, D.T., Lau, M., Ming, L.T., Makchai, S., Truong, N.Q. and Phimmachak, S. (2010) Impending conservation crisis for Southeast Asian amphibians. Biological Letters, 6(4): 336-338.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.