Episode 264 – Waxy Monkey Frog: Skincare Routine

“…and today we’re talking about a frog with a killer skincare routine. But more on that later.”

For too long, amphibians have only dared to come out at night. But the waxy monkey frog says no more. This amphibian has chosen to step into the sun and lay eyes upon an earth in the full brightness of day. There’s just one problem: how can a supple, tree frog avoid drying out in direct sunlight? Our friend the monkey frog has a wonderful waxy way to stay cool in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • I nominate this frog for best frog
  • This is the platonic ideal for a frog
  • This little guy is just so green – and we all know how tough it is on amphibians of color
    • Though it can change to brown depending on its environment
  • They have wide heads, pudgy potbellies, long limbs for jumping and clinging to branches
    • They even have opposable thumbs – take that simians!
  • They also have cream-colored racing stripes going across their jaw lines and down their chest
  • Their yellow eyes are large and usually have the typical slit pupils. But these can be opened up to make them the closest thing we have to an adorable frog

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro!


  • 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm)
  • How many waxy monkey frogs go into the largest monkey?
  • Hint: The largest monkey is a mandrill, an old world monkey similar in style to a baboon.
  • 12 waxy frogs. The mandrill can be as large as 95 cm (37 in).

Male female size difference

  • Female frogs are this percentage larger than males. This percentage is also close to the percentage of Americans that believed the sun revolved around the earth in 2012. What is the percentage?
  • Hint: The survey was taken by the National Science Foundation and only involved 2,200 people, so, considering there are 331.9 million people in the U.S., the survey is only a little more representative of general American thought than a Jaden Smith tweet.
  • Females are 25% larger than males.

Fast Facts

  • Range: Lives in the semi-arid trees of Southeastern South America – Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.
  • Diet: terrestrial invertebrates – i.e. bugs, insects, spiders. It also likes to make a quick snack of its own molted skin. This is called dermatophagia and is common in humans – like if you eat your cuticles or something.
  • Behavior:
    • They are nocturnal
    • During breeding season, the rainy season, they’ll hang out near lagoons, ponds, and flooded fields. Males call all night to females
    • When it’s on the ground, it actually doesn’t hop – it walks… like Smeagol
    • They lay their eggs in the leaves of the trees over bodies of water. If there are birds around, the frogs will wrap their clutch in more leaves for concealment and protection.
    • The eggs hatch into tadpoles that fall into the water below
    • Since they live in semi-arid climates, the bodies of water are inconsistent and often temporary.

Major Fact: Waxy Sunscreen

Amphibians are known for being wet and wild. If you live near a pond or bog, you know these folks start to croak when the sun goes down. 

That’s because frog skin is soft and supple, made for swimming around and absorbing moisture, not blockout out harmful cosmic radiation from gigantic nuclear furnaces in the sky. 

Most frogs solve this problem by remaining nocturnal. But the wax monkey frog said, “the sun will shine on us again, brother,” and he means it. 

To avoid desiccating like an ancient vampire in the sunlight, waxy monkey frogs secrete a waxy substance from glands on their neck. Instead of just blocking sunburns, the wax seems to lock in moisture.

If you watch a video of this, you can see them applying the waxy sunblock by rubbing their hands and feet all over their body like a family of gingers at the beach on the fourth of July. 

By controlling water lost through evaporation, they can control their body temperature better than other frogs. This allows them to withstand temperatures as high as 104 degrees fahrenheit or 40 degrees celsius. 

There are also proteins in the wax that stimulate or inhibit the growth of blood vessels, which may also aid in thermoregulation, but it might also work in humans. As warm-blooded mammals, we don’t need help thermoregulating. But the protein compound found in these waxy secretions might be able to kill cancerous tumors

Tumors can only grow so big before they need to grow blood vessels to supply oxygen that enables further growth. This protein may stunt the growth of tumors and prevent them from growing out of control. 

Ending: So guard your favorite leaf, secrete some good sunscreen, and snack on your shed skin if you gotta like the waxy monkey frog here in LDT.