Geographic Range

All 26 species of Theloderma can be found throughout southeastern Asia, northeastern India, Myanmar, southern China, Indochina, Malaya, Sumatra, and Borneo. All of southeast Asia is within the tropical and subtropical climatic zone. The region is subject to a monsoonal weather system with wet and dry periods, but overall has a significant annual rainfall. The terrain includes mountain ranges, planes, and plateaus, but species of Theloderma are most abundant in mountainous areas (Leinbach, 2020). (Leinbach, 2020)


  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • temporary pools

Systematic and Taxonomic History

Theloderma is within family Rhacophoridae and order Anura. Many species within this genus are still being identified, with the most recent being in 2021. There has been some debate about the distinction between the three subfamilies of Rhacophoridae, Buergeriinae, and Rhacophorinae, the latter to which Theloderma belongs. There have not been many name changes in Theloderma's history, as it is a recently-identified genus with the earliest species, T. leporosum, being identified in 1838. Some other closely-related groups to Theloderma are Chiromantis, Ghatixalus, and Philautus (Species, 2000; Species, 2020). (Frost, 2021; Species 2000, 2020)

  • Synonyms
    • Stelladerma
    • Phrynoderma
    • Bug-eyed frogs
    • Warty tree frogs

Physical Description

Limbs: In a study comparing the physical features of six Theloderma species, they all had many basic characteristics in common. Generally, Theloderma species have strong limbs with their hind legs being about twice the length of their forelimbs (Mian et al., 2017).

Mouths:Theloderma frogs have round snouts with distinct ridges and oval-shaped nostrils that are closer to their mouths than their eyes. They have large, heart-shaped tongues with vomerine teeth that are only located in the front, upper part of their mouth to assist in holding onto prey (rather than chewing) in order to swallow their prey whole.

Size: Size varies between species. T. asperum is one of the smallest species, with adult males as small as 1 inch and adult females around 1.75 inches. There are also larger species such as T. corticale, with males being around 3 inches and females as large as 3.5 inches (Amphibiaweb).

Vision:Theloderma frogs have large eyes with circular pupils. Eyelid coverage varies between species.

Methods of Movement: When hunting or escaping, Theloderma frogs use their muscular hind legs to leap across large distances, but they also crawl and use short hops to travel short distances.

Physical Differentiations Some characteristics that help distinguish between the physical appearances of Theloderma species are coloration, dorsal patterns, and the presence of vocal sacs. Cryptic coloration varies depending on the location and habitat of each species. For example, T. corticale individuals appear to resemble a clump of moss due to their green coloration that is decorated with black spots and tubercles. This camouflage helps them hide in water basins (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022).

Sexual Dimorphism: Males tend to be smaller and have nuptial pads on the inner side of their forelimbs to assist in grip during copulation. Males also have smaller vocal sacs - or in some species such as T. kwangsiense, have no vocal sacs at all. (AmphibiaWeb, 2022; Mian, et al., 2017; Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger


Eggs hatch anywhere between 7-14 days, and the newly-hatched tadpoles drop into the water directly below them. Metamorphosis from tadpole to frog takes about three months. The exact lifespan of these frogs is unknown, but is estimated to be around 10 years (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022). (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022)


Very little is known about Theloderma's mating systems. Research on mate competition is also sparse. Females are typically larger than males, so it is thought that this may be a contributing factor in copulation success (Mian et al., 2017). (Mian, et al., 2017)

Much of Theloderma's reproduction method(s) is still unknown due to the cryptic appearances and arboreal lifestyles of this genus. T. asperum have been observed in small aggregations at breeding sites, which include water-filled tree cavities, small rainwater pools, or in artificial water containers (AmphibiaWeb, 2022). Some species, like T. stellatum, are phytotelm breeders; they attach their eggs to tree trunks above water where the larvae then develop (IUCN, 2022). Other species, such as T. corticale, breed in rock cavities where water has flooded the floor (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022). During breeding, eggs usually measure around 8mm and are attached 2–3cm above the water surface in pairs by a clear, viscous gelatin.

Egg deposition of T. asperum appears similar to T. corticale. Clutches are small, averaging between 4-15 eggs, and survival rate is unknown. Egg-laying has been observed during the months of April-June, but could vary between species (IUCN, 2022). (AmphibiaWeb, 2022; IUCN, 2022; Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022)

There is very little parental care after the eggs have been fertilized and deposited (IUCN, 2022). (IUCN, 2022)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


The exact lifespan of Theloderma species in the wild is unknown due to the challenges faced when observing the frogs in their natural habitat. The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (2022) estimates the species' lifespans to be about ten years. (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022)


Amphibians are known to exhibit a wide range of defensive behaviors, and Theloderma species are no exception. T. asperum exhibit “shrinking or contracting behavior," during which they curl into an arched/rigid posture, keep their eyes closed, pull extremities close to the body, and remain motionless. No defensive calls/smells have been observed (Barrionuevo, 2015). (Barrionuevo, 2015)

Theloderma species are arboreal, making behavioral studies challenging. Most observational and controlled experiments have been performed in captivity. Theloderma species are phytotelm breeders, and larvae go through metamorphosis in water (IUCN, 2022). There is still much to learn about Theloderma's intraspecific behaviors. (Ginal, et al., 2021; IUCN, 2022)

Communication and Perception

Theloderma use anuran vocalizations. When studying the calls of six species (T. albopunctatum, T. corticale, T. licin, T. auratum, T. stellatum, and T. vietnamense), the calls were all species-specific, differing in temporal features such as arrangement in call groups and call repetition rate. Some calls do overlap in dominant frequencies, but are otherwise distinguishable.

These advertisement calls can be used to attract conspecific females for mating purposes or to deter other vocalizing males. T. asperum individuals' aggressive calls tend to have a staccato-like sound when two males are fighting. It should also be noted that since frogs are ectotherms, calls will vary with change in ambient temperature. The difference in temporal features of calls may be due to varying snout length, body mass, and distance between frogs. Vocalizations seem to be the main form of intraspecific communication within Theloderma species, although there is still much to be studied (Ginal et al., 2021). (Ginal, et al., 2021)

Many amphibians have tetra-chromatic color vision, which includes ultraviolet cones. This enables them to perceive ultraviolet wavelengths. Many predators of frog species, such as pit vipers, have developed the ability to perceive infrared wavelengths. Several anuran species have shown increased reflectance in the infrared spectrum, possibly evolving in response to predator vision as a cryptic tactic (Toledo & Celio, 2009).

Theloderma species exhibit cryptic coloration. This can make it hard to differentiate between species and therefore is another challenge to overcome when determining how many species there are within Theloderma without genetic information. Many species within Theloderma also exhibit mimicry, tricking predators into thinking they are plants/objects within the ecosystem (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022). (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022; Toledo and Celio, 2009)

  • Other Communication Modes
  • mimicry

Food Habits

After researchers studied tadpoles' morphology and gut contents, Theloderma larvae seem to be omnivorous. They seek a wide variety of food items such as fungal spores, lepidoptera scales, and exoskeletons of macroscopic arthropods. It is also possible that Theloderma females deposit “nutritive” or unfertilized eggs into arboreal habitats along with the larvae as another source of food. Morphology of branchial food traps, branchial baskets, dense gill filters, and floor depressors suggest that Theloderma feeds on microscopic plankton, but their IH/OH ratio is rather small for this to be the case. Therefore, there is still much to learn about larvae consumption because they seem to possess both dietary extremes of microphagy and macrophagy (Wasserug et al., 1981). (Wasserug, et al., 1981)

As for mature individuals of Theloderma, they eat similarly to other anuran species. Frogs are generalist predators so they can adapt their diet to whatever is most abundant at any given time. Theloderma are known to preferentially hunt large insects such as crickets and cockroaches. When given the opportunity, they will also eat aquatic invertebrates (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022). (Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022)


Predators of Theloderma include tree-dwelling mammals and snakes. Vietnamese mossy frogs (T. corticale) are known to fold into a ball when frightened and play dead. Curling up may help them appear inedible to a snake. Theloderma species are known for their anti-predator, cryptic coloration (Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, 2022). Theloderma frogs are also nocturnal, so they avoid predation during the day by hiding in water, under rocks, or by attaching to rock outcroppings where their coloration camouflages them ("Aquarium of the Pacific", 2022). ("Aquarium of the Pacific", 2022)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Frogs play an important role in the food chain as both a predator and prey. As tadpoles, they eat microorganisms and help regulate algal blooms. Tadpoles are also a food source for turtles, alligators, crocodiles, and birds. When mature, Theloderma frogs are a food source for arboreal mammals and snakes. Adults also help control insect populations (Gonzalez, 2017). Without insect population control, transmissible diseases such as malaria could become rampant in human populations. (Gonzalez, 2017)

Theloderma species also have novel defensin-like antimicrobial peptides found in their skin secretions that make them 1) susceptible to environmental changes and 2) good indicators of ecological health (Shen et al., 2016). This becomes especially important as climate change, pollution, anthropogenic change, and other ecological threats continue to create lasting impacts on environments. (Shen, et al., 2016)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Theloderma frogs may not have a direct impact on the economy, but they do have many positive, indirect impacts. They play an important role as mesopredators, regulating prey species and serving as food for higher trophic predators (Gonzalez, 2017). Without them, there would be an accumulation of primary producers and primary consumers. Additionally, there would be more algal blooms, which are harmful to the environment because they can block aquatic species from receiving light (Kudela & Gobler, 2012). All of these issues could lead to the complete failure of ecosystems and, ultimately, species extinctions. (Gonzalez, 2017; Kudela and Gobler, 2012; Shivanna, 2020)

Additionally, multiple species of Theloderma, including T. corticale, T. vietnamese, and T. auratum, are used and traded as pets, displays, and for use in horticulture. Their unique coloration makes them highly attractive to people. Many zoos have also begun to house species of Theloderma (IUCN, 2022). (IUCN, 2022)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Amphibian populations can be costly to maintain, especially when they become overly abundant. For example, poisonous cane toads (Rhinella marina) overpopulated Australia and not only became a nuisance, but a serious concern for humans (Beckmann & Shine, 2009). Overpopulation can be managed via extermination, relocation, and other costly tactics. Another way amphibians can become economically costly is when they are underpopulated. Conservationists recognize Theloderma's long-term importance and have attempted to conserve their populations. Sometimes, these efforts are in vain - or if they are successful, they are very costly. (Beckmann and Shine, 2009)

Conservation Status

Currently, four Theloderma species are listed as Endangered, three are listed as Vulnerable, two are listed as Near-Threatened, fifteen are listed as Least Concern, and five are listed as Data Deficient. Their populations are threatened by habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, land conversion, anthropogenic development, and more (IUCN, 2022). These amphibians can only be found in tropical and subtropical environments, which are some of the most damaged and threatened ecosystems in the world due to climate change, pollution, and other anthropogenic impacts. Due to our inability to determine the exact number of individuals in each Theloderma species, it is important to protect as many of these species as possible. (IUCN, 2022; Witczak and Dorcas, 2009)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

Multiple species of Theloderma, including T. corticale, T. vietnamese, and T. auratum, are used and traded as pets, displays, and for use in horticulture. Their unique coloration makes them attractive to people. Many zoos have also begun to house species of Theloderma (IUCN, 2022). (IUCN, 2022)


Hannah Grant (author), Colorado State University, Audrey Bowman (editor), Colorado State University, Sydney Collins (editor), Colorado State University.



uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.


an animal that mainly eats meat


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


(as keyword in perception channel section) This animal has a special ability to detect heat from other organisms in its environment.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


imitates a communication signal or appearance of another kind of organism


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


an animal that mainly eats plankton


an animal which has a substance capable of killing, injuring, or impairing other animals through its chemical action (for example, the skin of poison dart frogs).


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


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