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It's Snot Funny! Tree Frogs and Icky Sticky Foot Pads

Helping me out today is Liam Mahoney, a student in upstate New York who lives next to a forest. On occasion, through photographs and words, Liam will describe and compare the similar features of his temperate climate environment with those of rainforest environments.

How would you like to be able to easily climb tall trees without worrying about falling? You probably would need some special footwear to do that. The tree frogs of the rainforest count on their special foot–or rather toe–gear to help them hang onto whatever they are climbing.

Tree frogs of all types depend on sticky pads to help them defy gravity when climbing up and down trees. The sticky pads are made up of a combination of soft, rubbery cells and mucus. That’s right! Snot is one of the ingredients that helps the tree frogs grip surfaces so they don’t fall.

Scientists have learned that the wetter the surface, the better the sticky pads work for the frogs. Dry surfaces make it harder to produce the cells and mucus needed to hang tight to surfaces. The pads are also self-cleaning which means that the frogs do not have to worry about gunk building up on their pads.

Gray Tree Frog Icky Sticky Foot Pads Image Liam Mahoney
Here are Liam’s observations of the tree frogs where he lives:

Notice its toe pads and how the frog uses them to cling to the bark.

“The sticky pads on the feet of the gray tree frog allow it to cling to the sides of trees. This frog is well adapted for life in the trees of a temperate forest, where its unique coloration helps it to blend in with lichen and tree bark.”

How has nature helped the tree frog adapt to its environment? Can you think of other animals that have special adaptations that help them survive?

Nature Photographer Liam Mahoney
Rainforest Kids Science curriculum connection: Unit 2: Chapter 1, Lesson 1, Grade 3; Unit 3: Chapter 2, Lesson 2, Grade 1; Unit 3: Chapter 2, Lesson 1, Grade 4

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