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This Frog May Be the First Amphibian Known to Pollinate Flowers


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On rainy nights on the verdant coastal plains outside Rio de Janeiro, groups of tree frogs sometimes gather around the pearly white flowers of the milk fruit tree. But while most tree frogs are on the prowl for night-flying insects, one species is after the sugary nectar in the flowers. The tiny, orange Xenohyla truncata’s sweet tooth might make it the world’s first known pollinating amphibian. And the discovery adds to growing evidence that we need to broaden our understanding of which animals act as pollinators beyond the well-known birds and insects.

During a visit to a spot near the Brazilian town of Armação dos Búzios in December 2020, researchers witnessed a group of the frogs—commonly known as Izecksohn’s Brazilian tree frog—feeding on milk fruit. The stomach contents of museum specimens had previously shown that the species is one of the few amphibians in the world to eat fruit, says team member Carlos Henrique de-Oliveira-Nogueira, a biologist at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil. The researchers saw one of the frogs wiggle into a…

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