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Do Frogs Have Opposable Thumbs? 5 Breeds & Where To Find Them

Rachel Giordano

By Rachel Giordano

waxy monkey tree frog

Having opposable thumbs means you can touch the tips of all your fingertips with your thumb by flexing and rotating them. Can you imagine trying to write, type, open a jar, or simply hold an object without opposable thumbs? Humans are lucky enough to have this anatomical feature, but humans are not the only species that have them. When you think of other species with opposable thumbs, you normally think of apes, koala bears, pandas, and chameleons, but what about frogs? Do frogs have opposable thumbs?

There are over 6,000 known species of frog, and surprisingly, some frogs in the Phyllomedusa genus have opposable thumbs, including the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog, Phyllomedusa camba tree frog, Tarsier Leaf Frog, Burmeister’s Leaf Frog, and the Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog.

Let’s take a closer look at these fascinating amphibians.

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The 5 Frogs with Opposable Thumbs

1. Waxy Monkey Tree Frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagii)

The Waxy Monkey Tree Frog is an adorable amphibian that is one of few that can tolerate direct sunlight for long periods due to a protective waxy layer. They have glands located on the neck that secrete wax, which they rub themselves down with. They make sure every inch of skin is protected with the waxy layer, and they are able to do this with the help of their opposable thumbs. Their opposable thumbs also help them climb trees, hence the name. Sunshine helps keep them protected from fungal infections that other species may otherwise be prone to.

There are two types of Waxy Monkey Tree Frogs: standard and bi-color. The standard variety is a bright jungle green with subtle markings of cream white on the belly and hands. The bi-color is also bright green in color but only on the top part of the body, with the bottom having hues of brown and tan. Physically, however, these two frogs are nearly identical.

Their human-like faces give them a unique appearance, and they are roughly 2–3 inches in length with a lifespan of up to 8 years in captivity.

Waxy Monkey Tree Frog Phyllomedusa sauvagii
Waxy Monkey Tree Frog Phyllomedusa sauvagii (Image Credit: Paul Harrison, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 4.0 International)

Where Can You Find the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog?

These frogs can be found in South America and are native to Gran Chaco. This semi-arid lowland forest spans eastern Bolivia, northern Paraguay, northern Argentina, and some parts of Brazil. They don’t hop around much but rather love to hang out in trees and sleep most of the day. They are nocturnal and spend their evenings hunting insects to eat.

2. Phyllomedusa camba Tree Frog

The Phyllomedusa camba Tree Frog has no common name. They have unusually large brown irises and are distinguishable by their leafy-green coloration.  This rare species walks rather than jumps, and even though it has no official common name, it is commonly referred to as the Monkey Tree Frog. These frogs climb trees at a slow and steady pace thanks to their opposable thumbs, and they play an important role in controlling diseases, as they eat roughly 1,000 disease-carrying insects per day. Sadly, this species of frog is critically endangered.

Where Can You Find the Phyllomedusa Camba Tree Frog?

You can find these bright green frogs in the southwestern Amazon Basin, from western Brazil to eastern Bolivia, and down to southeastern Peru.

3. Tarsier Leaf Frog (Phyllomedusa tarsius)

The Tarsier Leaf Frog is rarer within the Phyllomedusa species. It has green on its back side and is granular in texture. The first and second fingers are a brownish color with white tips, and the others are green with graying brown tips. The abdominal area is an orange-brown color, and the throat and chest are white. The iris is orange-red with bold black reticulations.

Tarsier Leaf Frog
Image Credit: Panga Media, Shutterstock

Where Can You Find the Tarsier Leaf Frog?

You can find this frog in Columbia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and possibly Bolivia and Guyana. Its natural habitats are tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, tropical and subtropical swamps, freshwater marshes, and degraded former forests. They, too, are an endangered species due to habitat loss.

4. Burmeister’s Leaf Frog (Phyllomedusa burmeisteri)

This species of frog, also known as the Common Walking Tree Frog, is yet another species within the Phyllomedusa family with opposable thumbs. They are green in color with a yellow underside with circular patches of yellow and black on the sides. We couldn’t find much info on these frogs other than their skin secretions contain medically-valuable molecules, which aid in the discovery of biopharmaceuticals.

Burmeister Leaf Frog
Image Credit: PetlinDmitry, Shutterstock

Where Can You Find the Burmeister’s Leaf Frog?

This frog is native to the Atlantic Forest biome in Brazil.

5. Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog (Phyllomedusa hypochondrialis)

These frogs have orange and black striped tiger markings on the inner thighs, hence the name. They have a bright-green dorsal color and have partially orange and irregular black stripes with blotches on the flanks. They have long, skinny legs they use to slowly climb and walk in the trees, much in the same way as monkeys. Thanks to their opposable thumbs, they can grasp skinny tree branches with ease.

Monkey Frog
Image Credit: Kurit afshen, Shutterstock

Where Can You Find the Tiger-Legged Monkey Frog?

These frogs are native to Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana and French Guiana, Suriname, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. They prefer tropical and subtropical dry and moist forests but are also seen in flooded grasslands.

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Final Thoughts

All of these frogs belong to the Hylidae family and are arboreal and nocturnal. These frogs are among the few with opposable thumbs, as most frogs have four-fingered hands and five-toed legs. These frogs are able to live in trees because they can climb them and walk instead of jump.

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Featured Image Credit: Audrey Snider-Bell, Shutterstock

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