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Anotheca spinosa Steindachner 1864

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Anotheca spinosa
Anotheca spinosa

Common name

Crowned Hyla, Spiny-headed Treefrog, Spine-headed Treefrog, Spinyhead Treefrog, Coronated Treefrog


Anotheca spinosa lays its eggs in water-filled cavities of trees and bromeliads. Once the tadpoles hatch, the mother returns to the site to feed her offspring unfertilized eggs (Taylor 1954, Robinson 1961, Jungfer 1996). The tadpoles would probably not survive without these eggs as a food resource in this nutrient-poor environment.



Species description based on Duellman (2001) and Savage (2002). A large frog with many, sharp, pointed projections on the head and dorsal surface. All individuals have a large tympanum. Males 59-69 mm, females 58-80 mm.

Anotheca spinosa Adult 1


Patterning is variable, but consists of small to large black, brown or tan blotches or spots on a creamy gray to tan background.


Ventral surface is smooth and dark brown or black.


Iris bronze to copper in color. Pupil round.


Hands without webbing and feet with a small amount of webbing.

Life history

Breeding season

Males call from water-filled treeholes and bromeliads (Jungfer 1996). Mating behavior has been observed in captivity. Following amplexus, the pair dives into the water and with the cloacae pointing out of the water, affix eggs to the sides of containers above the surface of the water (Jungfer 1996).


Eggs are dark grey and white (Jungfer 1996). White larvae hatch in 6-7 days (Jungfer 1996).


Tadpoles are dark brown. The tail is lighter in color with some mottling. Mouth contains a large beak and 2 teeth rows on top and bottom (Savage 2002). Tadpoles develop in water-filled cavities of trees and bromeliads (Robinson 1961, Jungfer 1996). .

Metamorph juvenile

Juveniles have similar coloration as adults, but lack the spines (Robinson 1961, Duellman 2001, Savage 2002).

Ecology behavior and evolution


Males have no vocal slits, but produce a very loud "boop, boop, boop" call (Duellman 2001, Savage 2002).

Behavior and communication

Females return to the site and deposit unfertilized eggs for their offspring to consume (Jungfer 1996). They are stimulated to deposit these eggs by contact from tadpoles (Jungfer 1996).


2N = 24 (Sessions 1978)


Smith et al (2007) studied the evolution of novel characteristics in some Central American treefrogs. The study demonstrates the presence of a "hot spot" of origin of novel cranial features within the treefrogs, including Anotheca spinosa.

Taxonomy and systematics


  • Kingdom:Animalia
    • Phylum:Chordata


Steindachner 1864


Anotheca coronata, Gastrotheca coronata, Hyla spinosa, Nototrema marsupiatum, Nototrema coronatum, Opisthodelphys ovifera


Latin spinosa = thorny

Type locality


Habitat and distribution


Premontane cloud forest and occasionally upper lowland rainforest between 300 and 1800 m.


Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama


Anotheca spinosa distribution
Distrubution map (IUCN)


Altig, R. 1987. Key to the Anuran Tadpoles of Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist 32(1): 75-84.

Duellman, WE. 1970. The Hylid Frogs of Middle America. 1st edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Ithaca, New York.

Duellman, WE. 2001. The Hylid Frogs of Middle America. 2nd edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Emerson, SB. 1997. Testis size variation: testing the alternatives. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 41(4): 227-235.

Erspamer, V, G Erspamer Falconieri, and JM Cei. 1986. Active peptides in the skins of two hundred and thirty American amphibian species. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. C. Comparative pharmacology 85(1): 125-137.

Faivovich, J, CFB Haddad, PCO Garcia, DR Frost, JA Campbell, and WC Wheeler. 2005. Systematic review of the frog family Hylidae, with special reference to Hylinae: Phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History: 1-240.

Howland, HC, M Howland, A Giunta and TW Cronin. 1997. Corneal curvatures and refractions of central American frogs. Vision Research 37(2): 169-174.

Ibáñez, R, F Solís, C Jaramillo, and S Rand. 2000. An overwiew of the herpetology of Panama. In: Johnson, JD, RG Webb, and OA Flores-Villela. Eds. Mesoamerican Herpetology: Systematics, Zoogeography and Conservation. The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas.

Jungfer, KH. 1996. Reproduction and parental care of the coronated treefrog, Anotheca spinosa. Herpetologica 52(1): 25-32.

Lips, K and JM Savage. 1996. Key to the Known Tadpoles (Amphibia: Anura) of Costa Rica. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 31(1): 17-26

Lips, KR, JR Mendelson III, A Munoz-Alonso, L Canseco-Marquez, and DG Mulcahy. 2004. Amphibian population declines in montane southern Mexico: resurveys of historical localities. Biological Conservation 119(4): 555-564.

Maxson, LR. 1977. Immunological detection of convergent evolution in the frog Anotheca spinosa (Hylidae). Systematic Zoology 26(1): 72-76.

McCranie, JR and LD Wilson. 2002. The Amphibians of Honduras. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Contributions to Herpetology 19: 1-625.

Robinson, DC. 1961. The identity of the tadpole of Anotheca coronata (Stejneger). Copeia 1961(4): 495.

Roseghini, M, V Erspamer, G Erspamer Falconieri, and JM Cei. 1986. Indole-, imidazole- and phenyl-alkylamines in the skin of one hundred and forty American amphibian species other than bufonids. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. C. Comparative pharmacology 85(1): 139-147.

Satel, SL and RJ Wassersug. 1981. On the relative sizes of buccal floor depressor and elevator musculature in tadpoles. Copeia 1981: 129-137.

Savage, JM. 2002. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Herpetofauna between two Continents, between two Seas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Sessions, SK. 1978. The chromosomes of Anotheca spinosa (Stejneger), family Hylidae. Herpetologica 34(1): 70-73.

Smith, SA, A Saad, A Nieto Montes de Oca, and JJ Wiens. 2007. A phylogenetic hot spot for evolutionary novelty in Middle American treefrogs. Evolution 61(9): 2075–2085.

Taylor, EH. 1954. Frog-egg eating tadpoles of Anotheca coronata (Stejneger) (Salientia, Hylidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 36: 580-595.

Wiens, JJ, CH Graham, DS Moen, SA Smith, and TW Reeder 2006. Evolutionary and Ecological Causes of the Latitudinal Diversity Gradient in Hylid Frogs: Treefrog Trees Unearth the Roots of High Tropical Diversity. American Naturalist 168: 579–596.

Wiens, JJ, JW Fetzner Jr., CL Parkinson and TW Reeder. 2005. Hylid Frog Phylogeny and Sampling Strategies for Speciose Clades. Systematic Biology 54(5): 778-807

Wilson, LD and JR McCranie. 2003. Herpetofaunal indicator species as measures of environmental stability in Honduras. Caribbean Journal of Science 39(1): 50-67.

Additional resources