Respect the Frog Blog Series: How Frogs Predict the Weather

By: Nikki Grandinetti, Curator of Fish & Invertebrates

Part I of our “Respect the Frog” Blog Series

By the time February comes around, most of us that live in the northeast are ready for winter to make an exit, and are wondering if that famous groundhog will see his shadow and determine if we are in for another six weeks of winter. I on the other hand anxiously wait for the sounds of the night to once again fill my ears.

Calls from the tiny spring peeper can be heard up to a mile away

Calls from the tiny spring peeper can be heard up to a mile away

The first frog that signifies that spring has definitely returned is that of the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). This tiny frog – not more than an inch and half long – are rarely seen, but a chorus of these frogs calling can be heard from up to a mile away. Growing up I could tell how the season progressed from early spring to the late days of summer and early fall by the species of frogs that could be heard calling at night time.

After the spring peeper comes, the sound of the leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens) and green frogs (Lithobates clamitans). Then the on warm summer nights I would listen for the low croaking of one of the largest North American frogs, the American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus).

Listen for the calls of American bullfrogs during warm summer nights.

Listen for the calls of American bullfrogs during warm summer nights.

The species that let me know that fall was coming and that the time to return to school was fast approaching, was the gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor).

You know fall is coming when you hear the sounds of the Gray tree frog

You know fall is coming when you hear the sounds of the Gray tree frog

Frogs also let us know when rain is on the horizon because their calls become louder, and more frogs are singing their hearts out. This is due to the frantic need for the males to attract a female so they can mate and lay their eggs in the nearest body of water. The life cycle of all frogs and amphibians is inherently tied to a source of freshwater. Thus, more rain increases the amount of vernal pools and temporary ponds for their tadpoles to develop.

The new frog exhibit at Adventure Aquarium not only showcases local species that you can find in your backyard, like the gray tree frog and the American bullfrog, but also introduce you to frogs from three other continents. From South America, meet the famous poison dart frogs who lay their eggs in the water that collects in bromeliad plants. From Africa, meet the two pound African bullfrog who anxiously awaits the rainy season to come out and lay 100’s of eggs in temporary ponds. The African bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) will also stay with their tadpoles to make sure they can always reach water, using their bodies to dig channels in the mud to allow the water to flow to their developing young. From Asia, meet the Vietnamese Mossy frog (Theloderma corticale) who displays an elaborate camouflage that transforms this species into a clump of moss on a tree.

So here is to hoping that famous groundhog does not see his shadow, and that the sounds of spring peepers will soon fill our backyard with their glorious chirping!

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