Alien Earthlings

in Drake Bay, Costa Rica



Tracie "The Bug Lady"  invites you  on an out  of this world  walk on...
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Discover the hidden treasures of Drake Bay,  Costa Rica with Tracie "The Bug Lady" .


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Smilisca phaeota

Masked Tree Frogs are a common sight in Drake Bay, and very often they are heard before they are seen. Masked Tree Frog - Smilisca phaeota

Their raucous call fills the air throughout the rainy season and during the dry season rains. They are good sized tree frogs and adults measure between 40 to 78 millimeters.

Their common name comes from the black patch that starts at the tip of the snout and continues through the eye and the eardrum, along the frog's face. This black mask will enhance the frog's camouflage by hiding the shape of the eye, which is what many predators will use to detect their prey. They can change their color and you may find frogs with coloration ranging from light tan to olive green.

When Masked Tree Frogs are breeding, males can be found at nighttime calling from mud puddles or swampy areas and also, quite reliably, at La Paloma Lodge's swimming pool. Masked Tree Frog - Smilisca phaeota

Their call is a very loud "wrauk!" and they are normally floating on the surface of the water while calling. We have encountered males calling in vegetation, although not as loudly as when in water. As they call, their throat sac will inflate into two large distinct bubbles, as can be seen pictured on the right. If a female is attracted to a calling male, she will join him in his pool and they will unite in axillary amplexus when they mate. This is when the male climbs onto the female's back and grasps her near the armpits, as seen below.

Masked Tree Frogs Mating - Smilisca phaeotaAt this point, the frogs will mate. The female will lay up to 2000 eggs as the male fertilizes them. The eggs float on the surface of the water and will normally hatch within the next 24 hours.

Once the tadpoles hatch, they will develop in their puddle until metamorphosis is completed. This normally takes between 60 and 80 days. Because they develop in puddles that may dry out if there are several days without rain, the tadpoles are quite resistant to dehydration. They may survive up to 24 hours out of the water. During this time, they will hopefully get some rain and their puddle will fill up again.

Masked Tree Frogs Mating - Smilisca phaeotaAfter mating, couples will remain in amplexus for some time and we regularly see amplectant pairs moving through the vegetation. The pair photographed here was on a vine about two meters above a stream. As with most frogs, females are larger than males and in this species they seem to be quite responsive.

Once on a Night Tour, we encountered a large female perched in a tree about three meters off the ground. While explaining a little about the Masked Tree Frog's natural history, I imitated their call. Much to my chagrin, and our tourists' amusement, she leapt from her perch and landed directly on my chest!

Masked Tree Frogs inhabit Humid Lowland Forests throughout the Pacific and Caribbean regions of Costa Rica. They are absent from the much drier Guanacaste Province, in the northwest of the country.

Masked Tree Frogs are known to exist in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Colombia.


Masked Tree Frog - Smilisca phaeotaReferences:

Leenders, T.  2001  A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica  Zona Tropical

Savage, J.  2002  The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica   University of Chicago Press








Mammals of the Osa Peninsula

The Frog Files

Frogs Home Page

Common Rain Frog - Craugastor fitzingeri

Gaufy Leaf Frog - Agalychnis callidryas

Gladiator Tree Frog - Hypsiboas rosenbergi

Glass Frogs Home Page

Emerald Glass Frog - Centrolenella prosobleponCascade Glass Frog - Cochranella albomaculataGranular Glass Frog - Cochranella granulosaCricket Glass Frog - Hyalinobatrachium colymbiphyllumDusty Glass Frog - Hyalinobatrachium pulveratumReticulated Glass Frog - Hyalinobatrachium valerioi

Gliding Leaf Frog - Agalychnis spurrelli

Hourglass Tree Frog - Dendropsophus ebraccatus

Giant Marine Toad - Bufo marinus

Masked Tree Frog - Smilisca phaeota

Smoky Jungle Frog - Leptodactylus petadactylus

Tink Frog - Diasporus diastema

Salamanders - Order: Caudata



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