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Sunrise over Maupiti by Raphael Bick on Flickr
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The flight of the Wallace’s Flying Frog
"Flying" frogs are distinguished from related, non-aerial, arboreal frogs, by their enlarged hands and feet, full webbing on the fingers and toes, and accessory skin flaps on the lateral margins of the arms and legs.
These “flying” frogs are not capable of powered flight, but do travel considerable horizontal distances during vertical descent. Technically they are considered as gliders and they also drop from vertical heights being as well parachuters.
Rhacophorus nigropalmatus (pictured) is one of those “flying” frogs, and move their front and hind limbs lateral to their bodies and spread their fingers and toes during aerial descent, adjusting limb position slightly during flight. They even are capable to execute turns of up to 180º while gliding.
The Wallace’s Flying Frog, occurs high in the canopy of primary rainforest in Borneo, but breeding takes place on the ground around water holes and wallows made in the forest by large animals and fallen trees. So, for this frog, maneuverability in gliding is a definite advantage in negotiation the spatially complicated but relatively open understory of the Bornean rainforest.
Once launched, these frogs always place their hands and feet in bent position lateral to the body. They adjust their limb position to improve aerial performance. Although skin flaps do not improve turning performance, enlarged hands and feet do. Changing limb position, however, can enhance turning performance almost as much as the enlargement of hands or feet alone.
Photo credit: ©kkchome | Locality: Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia
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