The Different Phyllomedusa Frogs

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I had the call to meet the Phyllomedusa Bicolor Frog stemming back to my practitioner’s training earlier this year. I felt this would be my next step moving from Kambo theory and practice to a full hands-on experience. A trip to Peru was manifested within months and I got my opportunity to meet and learn about the Phyllomedusa bicolor in its natural habitat. It was my first visit to the Amazon rainforest and enjoyed a weeklong stay. We were a small group of friends led by Victor Escobar, who organized the expedition. He lives in Iquitos and operates a lodge located in the Pacaya 

Simiria National Reserve is in the region of Loreto in the Amazon rainforest. It took two hours by road from Iquitos then two more hours by boat until we reached the lodge. A full immersion into the Amazon’s jungle.

The lodge was close to the waterways of the Ucayali and Marañon Rivers. It is in the stagnant waters of the riverbanks where the Phyllomedusa female lay her eggs. Victor’s knowledge of the jungle and the Phyllomedusa bicolor was extensive. The following are notes from our lecture about different types of the Phyllomedusa species in Peru and other regions, according to Victor.

There are approximately 30-33 species of the Phyllomedusa found within the Amazon rainforest in Peru, Brazil spanning other areas in Central and South America. The Phyllomedusa Bicolor is commonly known as the Monkey Tree Frog and is differentiated from other frogs by the way they move using slow exaggerated movements, akin to a monkey (2). Also known as the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog for their waxy secretion. Interestingly enough, the secretion which they use to spread over their bodies is used to protect their skin from sunlight. 

We discussed just four different Phyllomedusa species living in the Loreto and Peruvian jungle. All of the frogs listed here as least concerned in the conservation status classification for endangered species.

Phyllomedusa Tomopterna
Phyllomedusa Vaillanti

The Phyllomedusa Tomopterna (Barred/ super tiger-leg Monkey frog), grows about 2 inches for males and 2.4 inches for females. It has orange and black bands running along the flanks and inner legs species (1). The peptide in the secretion was demonstrated to have antimicrobial properties ( 3)

The Phyllomedusa Vaillanti (White-lined monkey frog), grows about 2.2 inches for males and 3.9 inches for females. It has green and reddish-brown colored flanks with small spots of cream to pale orange (5). Has insecticidal protein in the skin which has been shown to kill adult and larval mosquitoes (4).

Phyllomedusa Atelopoides
Phyllomesusa Hypochondrialis

The Phyllomedusa Atelopoides, (Toady Leaf Frog) found in Northern Peru and further South close to Bolivia and Brazil, grows to be about 2.4 inches in length. It has purplish-brown dorsal coloration both day and night with green metallic flecks scattered (6). No information is available about its secretion.

The Phyllomedusa Bicolor, (Giant Monkey Tree Frog). We are more familiar with this frog. They are found in the Amazon basin and surrounding areas. It grows about 4 inches for males and 4.7 inches for females. This well loved Frog is Green with a white belly. Their Lower lips, chest and front legs bear sparse white spots with dark frames (7).

Victor told us that ‘of all the Phyllomedusa species, only the Phyllomedusa Bicolor has the secretion with the peptides found in Kambo’. In my opinion, new research into the proteins and peptides of other Phyllomedusa species are being conducted but still more research is needed to determine and fully understand any potential benefits.

We discussed another species, the Phyllomedusa Hypochondrialis. Also known as the tiger-legged monkey frog and lives in Brazil and other areas in South America. It grows about 1.5 inches for males, 2 inches for females. It’s a relative of the Phyllomedusa Tomopterna but the Hypochondrialis is smaller in size. It has orange and black bands running along the flanks and inner legs species (8).

Victor mentioned that there are some locals in Brazil, driven by the demand for the Kambo secretion, who are using the Phyllomedusa Hypochondrialis frog’s secretion’s instead of the bicolor’s secretion. He stated that the secretion of the Hypochondrialis, though has similar bio-active peptides, it does not have the same peptides that have the cardiovascular and visceral effects the bicolor species has and can be even dangerous to be used on people. The Hypochondrialis in one of the few frogs that can be kept in captivity (10).

During the week I was there, we went out on different search expeditions at nighttime, when the frogs are active. Finding the Phyllomedusa bicolor was not easy, however. It took us 3 days to find just one. We searched by boat along the riverbanks while Victor called the frog to identify its location. We could hear the frog calling back was difficult to find the spot. It made me reflect on the enormous effort it requires to find just one frog. Its as if the frog knew why were there and was hiding from us. Finally, on the third night, we found our beloved frog.

One of Victor’s crew climbed a 25-30 foot tree and brought a male frog down. It was the moment we were all waiting for, meeting and connecting with the frog. Victor talked about the Phyllomedusa bicolor at length. Showing how to differentiate the bicolor from other species by the white spot marks on the flank and hind legs. Each of us got a few minutes to hold and talk to the frog. I asked permission to share its secretion with people that needed. We then proceeded to extract the secretion from the frog. I wanted to witness whether it is was done in a humane manner. The frog didn’t appear to be bothered or harmed throughout the process. Per Victor’s directions, we held the frog for only 4 minutes. Anything longer than four minutes may stress the frog, he added.

Overall, I had a fantastic experience in Peru meeting the frog, the animals, and plants of the Amazon. I have deepened my knowledge about the Phyllomedusa bicolor and the other species.

Viva Kambo!

Carlos Guzman

Sources #

Phyllomedusa Tomopterna

1. Tiger-leg monkey frog

2. Tiger-leg monkey frog care sheet


Phyllomedusa Vaillanti:

4. White-lined monkey tree frog secretion ( vaillantii 

5. Phyllomedusa facts 

The Phyllomedusa atelopoides

6. Phyllomedusa 

The Phyllomedusa bicolor

7. Phyllomedusa bicolor

The Phyllomedusa hypochondrialis

8. Phyllomedusa 

9. Phyllomedusa captivity

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