Tag Archives: frogs

Ten Things That May Amaze You About Frogs & Toads

So in preparation for an amphibian program I had recently I did a lot of reading, much of which was fascinating but didn’t actually apply to my program because it was about amphibians in other parts of the world instead of here in western North Carolina.

Spring peeper

Spring peeper

Some of this stuff is right out of a science fiction movie so I decided to write a post about it. I suspect you will be as blown away as I was! We live in an amazing world and there are so many wickedly-awesome adaptations that animals have!

So here then, are 10 Things You May Not Know about frogs and Toads:

Frogs are slimy and hard to hold!

Frogs are slimy and hard to hold!

1. Have you ever touched a frog and noticed how slimy it was? That’s because they have mucus glands that secrete slime to keep them moist since they can obtain oxygen through their skin. They also breathe through their nostrils and lungs but about 50% of their oxygen is through their skin and when they are underwater, all of the oxygen exchange takes place through their skin.

2.Did you know frogs and toads shed their skin? Some do this daily, some weekly or less frequently. I have never seen this but have read that it’s like the frog suddenly has the hiccups and starts moving strangely, then peels off its outer skin, like removing a sweater. Then, guess what? It eats it! Yum.

3.Some frogs and toads, like our Cope’s gray tree frog, can change their color. Light, moisture, temperature and even mood can affect this!

Gray tree frogs can change colors!

Gray tree frogs can change colors!

4.The largest frog on Earth lives in West Africa and gets to be a foot long. It is aptly named the Goliath Frog. As for the smallest frog, it is a tie between the Gold Frog in Brazil and the Eleutherodactylus iberia (Yikes, I’m not going to try to pronounce that! Too bad they don’t have a common name yet for this frog!) that was discovered in 1996 in Cuba. Both are only about 9.8mm long! And we thought our spring peeper was tiny! (Our spring peeper is 1 inch long!)peep-5854

5. Many frogs and toads make noises to attract mates. They do their by inflating their vocal sac or sacs. (Some frogs have one but others have two, one on either side of their mouth) When they do this, it looks like they are chewing gum and blowing a giant bubble. Sometimes the noise of a lot of frogs doing this at once is DEAFENING! The songs can sometimes be heard a mile away! Ever wondered why they don’t go deaf with all of this noise? It’s because their ears or tympanums are connected to their lungs which also vibrate when they call. This pressure keeps frogs from hurting their own ears as they call. peep-

6.Have you heard of a pipi pipi toad? My gosh, this toad is incredible! The male actually embeds the female’s eggs onto her back, and then the skin grows over them so the developing eggs are INSIDE of her back! Then, incredibly, fully formed froglets hatch out several months later! Check out this video:

7. Maybe you’ve heard of Darwin’s Frog? This is a frog that looks like an overweight leaf and lives in the Amazon. The male actually swallows the tadpoles and then allows them to grow up INSIDE his vocal sac. Wait’ll you see what happens when they become fully formed frogs!

8. Wood frogs are a frog that we have here in the US, especially on the east coast, but even up as far north as the Arctic Circle. Amazingly, this frog can freeze solid–with more than 60% of its body frozen–and then just wake up and thaw out in the spring. As the first ice begins to form on their body, it sets off an alarm reaction which then triggers the production of glucose in their body. This acts like anti-freeze and protects the INSIDES of their cells from freezing. In less than 15 hours their heart stops beating, they don’t breath, no blood circulates. They look DEAD. But as long as the temperature doesn’t go below -8 degrees, they will wake up in the spring and head off to continue their lives!

Wood frogs freeze!

Wood frogs freeze!

9. Did you know frogs have teeth? They don’t look much like ours, but they do have teeth on their upper jaw. They use them to hold prey in place before swallowing it whole.

10. Frogs’ tongues are not connected in the back of their mouths like humans, but rather in the front so they can “throw it out of their mouths” and use its stickiness to catch prey. Here’s a video of this:

I hope you are as amazed by frogs as I am! It was hard to narrow it down to only 10.

If you want to read more, here are a few other links

10 things you may not know about wood frogs

Here are some recordings of the songs of an American Toad, Spring Peeper,and Pickerel Frog.

What cool facts do you know about frogs and toads that I have not included? As always, I would love to hear from you!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #97

So did you know last week’s puzzler? These are eggs from a yellow spotted salamander! Have you ever seen or heard of this salamander? It is rather large, at 7 inches long though they can be 9 inches long! beech-076

I first learned about this salamander when I lived in eastern New York state and worked as a Naturalist at a local county park that consisted of nearly 5000 acres including many ponds and vernal wetlands. Myself and the other naturalists and curators often visited the ponds in the spring, checking for the amphibians and their egg masses as well as other critters like fairy shrimp. Some creatures, including spotted salamanders and wood frogs, use vernal wetlands for their eggs.  These sometimes resemble puddles more than ponds and will tend to dry up before the official start of spring or summer. Salamanders and frogs choose them because they have no fish–which of course is a good thing if you are a tiny creature that would easily become fish food!

While this looks like a puddle, it is an important habitat for wood frogs and salamanders

While this looks like a puddle, it is an important habitat for wood frogs and salamanders

Here's another one! Filled with wood frog eggs

Here’s another one! Filled with wood frog eggs

Another creature that lays eggs in the ponds in the late winter and early spring are wood frogs. Their eggs look different. Spotted salamander eggs have a gelatinous mass around each egg (black dot) and then AROUND THE WHOLE MASS is another gelatinous mass. Wood frog eggs lack the extra layer on the outside. Also, spotted salamander eggs are usually found throughout the pond or wetland whereas wood frog eggs are usually all in the same place, and usually all attached to some kind of submerged vegetation.

Here is a wood frog egg mass in a pond on my property.

wood frog eggs

wood frog eggs

Wood frog eggs

Wood frog eggs above, yellow spotted salamander eggs below


Yellow spotted salamanders are a kind of mole salamander. They spend nearly all of their life underground –which is why most people never see one–unless they happen to be at a vernal wetland in the early spring when the salamanders are there to mate and lay eggs before returning to their hidden lives.

Know how they know when to leave their underground burrows? Or how they survive the freezing winter temperatures? Ever wondered what sex is like for these slimy, 4 legged creatures? Spotted salamanders will be the subject of this week’s Creature Feature so check back next week to learn more about them. They are fascinating!

Wood frog eggs have algae growing on them

Wood frog eggs have algae growing on them

Also, if you share my backyard here in western North Carolina and want to learn more about amphibians including our own frogs, toads and salamanders, I invite you to join me for a program at The Compleat Naturalist on March 18th at 6:30. Click HERE to sign up or HERE for more details.

Click HERE for the next puzzler! Happy weekend!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #80

Did you have any guesses as to the identify of the animal making this strange sound? Would you be surprised if I told you it was from a kind of amphibian–specifically a Pickerel frog?

frog-2065Pickerel frogs are found in the eastern United States, with the exception of the extreme southeast. They live near slow-moving water and in other damp areas, preferably with low, dense vegetation. They are 1 3/4 to 3 1/4 inches long. Their underside is light-colored with yellow where the legs meet the body. They have two ridges along the sides and back of their bodies–called dorsal lateral ridges.

Pickerel frogs producing an irritating skin secretion that makes them unappetizing to some predators. This secretion may kill other frogs if kept in the same container for any length of time.

Want to check out the next puzzler? Click HERE.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #56

peep-5850This HUGE sound is made from a very TINY frog, a spring peeper, one of our earliest to start calling in the spring. Their latin name is pseudacris crucifer. The first part means “false locust” because many people confuse their calls with those of insects. The second part, crucifer, is from the cross or X on their backs. This frog is only 3/4 – 1 3/8th inch long! To read more about this amazing frog, Click HERE. 

Or check out the next Puzzler!



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Weekly Puzzler Answer #54

Most people who heard the singing and looked to find its cause, identified this amphibian as a frog. The sound however is made from an American Toad–Bufo americanus– a creature few people seem to associate with water. But like other amphibians, toads DO travel to find appropriate bodies of water in the spring so they can find a mate and lay eggs. These are often vernal pools or in some cases, puddles, that will soon dry up. After wood frogs and peepers, American Toads are one of the earliest amphibians to call in the season. Hearing them is such a sure-sign that SPRING IS HERE!! Woo hoo, it’s cause for celebration! Are you hearing toads yet where you live?

Check out this past Puzzler  about another aspect of the American Toad. Or, check out Weekly Puzzler #55. Or, click below to listen and watch some toads singing… and mating!

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Can You Find the Frog?

A recent post was about spring peepers… can you find the peeper in this photo?


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Joyful Herald of Spring

apeep-As I stood outside in the rain today, with the soft drops falling gently on my face, I admired the way the forest looked bathed  in fog, mysterious and quiet and for a second, wondered what animal I should feature in this week’s Creature Feature. It didn’t take long to realize the Spring Peeper is the perfect critter to feature, as on a day like today, they are sure to be emerging from their winter hideouts and steadily making their way to the nearest vernal pools where they will make their lovely music for the next few weeks.

I love the sound of spring peepers perhaps more than any other amphibian or insect song.

There is just something about it that brings a smile to my heart and makes me feel carefree and happy.

Like a song from the radio that instantly brings back a memory, the sound of peepers makes me think of days gone by and places imprinted on my spirit like invisible tattoos.

One of the happiest times in my life was when I worked as a Naturalist at a small nature center in eastern New York state called Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Less than an hour from New York City, the park consisted of just under 5000 acres and in the time I worked there, I explored much of it, often venturing off trail to discover treasures unknown by many. I loved spring when I could visit one of many vernal pools on the property, often sitting alone until  the animals forgot about me and I could watch quietly to to see what creatures stirred. In the spring there is a particular order to things returning to the pond, a sequence that stays the same every year. First the wood frogs return, then the yellow-spotted salamanders and spring peepers followed by the American toads and gray tree frogs. All choose vernal or temporary bodies of water in which to lay their eggs, thus giving their offspring a better chance since these waters are devoid of fish that would quickly devour them. If the weather gets too warm too fast, the ponds might dry out completely but that is a risk these amphibians have been taking since the beginning of time.

One of my favorite places in the park was a place called Michigan Road. On spring evenings I often wandered there, deafened by the ringing bells of hundreds of spring peepers. I have never heard anything quite so loud! Sitting beside the pond was an amazing experience, one I wish I could share with everyone who knows me. There is a quote that says “Nature has music for those who listen.” … I know this is true and hope everyone can be blessed with the singing of spring peepers on warm spring nights.

To read more about Spring Peepers CLICK HERE to see my Weekly Creature Feature for this week.


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