Treefrogs Unite, Snappers Attempt to

On July 16th as Ranger Kristin and I walked through Explore the Wild, a tiny, grayish frog hopped out onto the pavement. The tiny frog was a Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis). The little frog (about 15 mm) had only recently morphed from a tadpole after having been deposited in the Wetlands as an egg, along with hundreds (maybe thousands) of others like it, a few months earlier. This was the first young treefrog of the season.

gray treefrog juv
This tiny frog can be recognized as a Gray Treefrog by the whitish spot under the eye. To judge size, that’s the stem of a dried holly leaf that the frog is clinging to with its left “hand.”

A second “fresh” Gray Treefrog as well as a very young Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) were also seen that day.

Though tadpoles are already morphing into adult form, the breeding season is not over for these treefrogs. They will continue to breed into August in our area, spurred on by the thunderstorms that move through the Piedmont each summer. It’s the rain that they want and need. The adult frogs can often be heard calling out in anticipation from the trees and shrubs at the sound of thunder, long before the clouds unload their watery cargo.

gray treefrog
An adult Gray Treefrog waits patiently for the coming night’s activities to begin. This frog is tucked-in under an umbrella next to the Ornithopter.

The heavy downpour on the night of July 14th brought down to the water many amorous treefrogs. The U-shaped pond next to the Ornithopter in Catch the Wind was full of frog eggs the following morning.

frog eggs
Some of the many eggs seen the day after the heavy rains of 14 July. These eggs were in the pond next to the Ornithopter in Catch the Wind.
frog eggs
The yolks (dark part) of these eggs are each about a millimeter in diameter.

The eggs are tiny, and they develop quickly. Within one or two days most of the eggs had already taken on the elongated shape of tadpoles.

tadpole
A tadpole settles on a small rock, munching on the abundant algae that covers the rock. (size, about 7 mm)

Six days after the eggs were deposited, the tadpoles were scattered about the pond resting on the rocks and stones that cover the bottom.

To survive, the tadpoles must develop quickly, the pools of water that the adult frogs breed in may dry up before the tadpoles reach maturity.

tadpoles
These tadpoles have to eat as much as possible in order to grow and develop into frogs before the pond dries up in late summer. Lucky for these tadpoles, this pond will be replenished before completely drying up.

Like caterpillars on the trees and plants above the pond that become moths or butterflies, a tadpole’s life under the water consists of little more than eating, resting, and growing before changing into a completely new form, a frog. And, that’s just what our tadpoles are doing, eating, resting, and growing.

July seems to me to be rather late in the season for snapping turtles to mate, but at least one male snapper here at the Museum thought not.

csnapper
A male Common Snapping Turtles attempts to mount an uncooperative female in the Wetlands.

From my perspective on the Main Wetlands Overlook, the male snapper never got what he was after.

snapper
That’s the female snapper’s nose on the left. The male’s shell is on the right, his head (center) is mostly submerged.

The pair was last seen swimming in opposite directions across the Wetlands.

2 responses to Treefrogs Unite, Snappers Attempt to

    • Greg Dodge, Ranger
      Greg Dodge, Ranger says:

      Don’t be sad, the coupling was just not meant to be. Besides, I can’t be sure, but there seemed to be a smile on the female’s face as she swam away.
      Good to hear from you Erin Brown, hope all is well with you.

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