Thursday, July 12, 2007

Eastern Gray Tree Frog

The Eastern Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) is the chameleon of the frog world. Although its name would imply it's not always the same color. It has the ability to adapt to backgrounds ranging from gray to green.

With a white spot under both eyes, a white belly and yellowish-orange markings on the inside of its hind legs, he is rather an exotic-looking frog for our area. The large adhesive pads on the end of its toes aide its ability cling to vertical surfaces.

Their predators are many species of birds, small mammals, snakes and other larger frogs. Bullfrogs and Green Frogs in our area are known predators and Giant Waterbugs will also attack them. They rarely leave the trees until the breeding season to avoid predators and are most active at night.

They prey upon most types of insects and their larvae. Mites, spiders, plant lice, harvestmen, and snails are also eaten as they hunt in the understory of wooded areas in small trees and shrubs. Like most frogs, it may also eat smaller frogs, including other tree frogs. Local pest populations of mosquitos, gnats, and flies are reduced in the territory of a single Gray Tree Frog.

Females in the animal kingdom tend to be more selective than males in choosing a mate. Female tree frogs respond to male tree frogs who have longer mating calls and ignore the frogs with shorter calls.

This initially seemed to indicate that females chose the male with the best song, but careful study revealed that offspring bred from these superior singers were of a higher quality, being measured by growth rate.

The sound of the male calling is comprised of a resonant musical trill and the dewlap (the pouch at his throat) expands and quivers.

In comparison to other frog species here, their calls are shorter being only .5 to 3 seconds long, but similar to the American Toad, but not as shrill.

Breeding is April to July. The female will lay up to 2,000 eggs singly or in loose clusters up to 30 eggs attached to vegetation near the surface in temporary or permanent ponds in swamps, forests, or gardens.

She chooses ponds that are relatively free of predators, especially avoiding fish. Eggs hatch in 3-6 days and tadpoles turn into frogs in 6-8 weeks, grazing on algae and plant debris.

They are subject to being consumed by larger fish and other amphibian larvae such as salamanders.

They overwinter under shelters of bark, leaves, rocks or logs. These frogs prevent ice crystals from forming in their organs by changing glycerol into glucose and circulating it through the organs. The remaining water in the body is allowed to freeze. The frog is basically frozen until next Spring.

In our habitat, the Eastern Gray Tree Frog returned each year to our deck planters which seem to offer protection from predators and they are near our small backyard pond.

This year they don't spend as much time in the planters, but they are often there. Our naughty squirrels have chewed the planter corners so the water runs right out of the bottom rather than being held in the reservoir below.

The tree frogs seem to have adjusted. I hear them in the bushes by the deck and they still visit the planter that has a corner unchewed. They make it look so comfortable there. We would replace the planters, but the squirrels have been eating all things plastic for quite awhile now ... so it would be a fruitless endeavor. Last week they chewed a hole in our big garbage toter that the trucks pick up.

During mating season they call from our deck and catch bugs attracted to the plants. This photo was taken at night while they were leaping for moths against a deck door that had an inside light gleaming through. They are just so cute and squeezable, but I avoid touching them.

Amphibians can be safely handled if you are sure your hands have no toxins on them.

Always wet your hands before touching them so you don't rub off the mucous membrane that keeps them from drying out and protects them from germs that can take their life.

Amphibians are being used to judge environmental toxicity of areas since they are so sensitive to poisons. Our world seems to be so full of toxicity.

Related Article
Eastern Gray Treefrog Tadpoles in Birdbath

5 comments:

Tara's Talk said...

I love your article on the frogs;) we have some ourselves;)

Anonymous said...

Several weeks or months ago, a cute little frog made his home in the hanging basket of my orchid plant. I so enjoyed seeing him every day and learning about his way of life. He was so precious to me. During the past couple of weeks the weather has been so bad. One week ago, Sunday I went out in the morning and he was "home" in the orchid basket and instead of his eyes being closed like they usually are in the daytime, they were wide open. I had to leave, but I put him (and the entire basket) in my utility room to protect him from the cold winds. I came home later and brought him in the house, and put him under a lamp to see if he would recover. After an hour or two I checked on him and I saw one eye move a little and I saw his torso move also. I was so relieved and, after doing some online research about frogs and freezing temperatures, I thought it would be okay to put him back outside. I thought he had the capability to shut down his body functions and sort of hibernate until warmer weather.

This past week, his body color changed, starting with his head. It got sort of black. And today I noticed that his torso area looks sunken and empty. Would I be (sadly) correct if I assumed that he has died? With his color being so dark now and the sunken torso, I have to think that my little "Ribbit" didn't survive. Would you be able to confirm this for me? Or better yet, can you give me hope that his body will thaw out and he will come back to life again?

As I mentioned, I loved how he just adopted our orchid plant as his high-rise home, and he was always there for me to admire in the morning before I left the house, and in the evening, before he went out for his nightly hunting trips. I will miss my Ribbit.

Thank you for any feedback you can offer.

Donna Watkins said...

I do not know what to tell you. I know that they can withstand freezing but the process of it uses a LOT of energy to "power down" for the winter. It also takes energy to "power up" and if there's not enough food to store up before he has to "power down" again for a freeze, I suppose he could die?

I surely wish I could offer a positive YES ... but I do not know. I would pray over him and see what happens. If nothing else, ask God to forgive your ignorance out of love and ask Him to bring another tree frog for you to enjoy ... or maybe another one of His critters, leaving the choice to Him.

These kinds of tragedies teach us more about Creation and the preciousness of life. They are not to pour guilt all over ourselves ... but to learn and grow in them. When ever I see a dead animal along a road ... or when one of "my wildlife" dies ... I always ask God to place it in Heaven near my cottage so it will be there when I arrive.

Even when we visit places that have lizards, snakes, etc. in glass enclosures, I pray with them reminding them of what Heaven looks like and I ask God to place them near my cottage if nobody else has claimed them. It has done SO MUCH for releasing my grief and brings more delight of what Heaven will be like.

pixiea said...

i am getting a tadpole and i have no idea if his habitat is big enough......i need advice

Donna Watkins said...

I suggest you Google for info. I'm definitely not an expert. I don't keep wild animals as pets so have no experience with that.

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