Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wood Frogs in Amplexus

I went out to the Chippewa River State Trail in Durand today looking to photograph the flowers of the hazelnut.  I've had my eye on one of these shrubs and the buds are just starting to pop.  With the temperature in the 70's this week, it's just a matter of time.

As I walked down the trail, I started hearing a call that sounds like a chuckling duck.  Click here to listen.

When I walked closer to where the sound was coming from - the shallow water in the ditch along the trail, the quacking stopped abruptly.   I stood and waited.

Then one-by-one, little reddish-brown, masked frogs surfaced, floated around and started calling again.  That's when I got my first good look:  Wood Frogs!   

Rana sylvatica

I've seen the adult masked frogs before, but I didn't know much about them.  

The most widely distributed frogs in North America, they've been found as far north as the Arctic.   These diurnal frogs are one of the first to breed in the spring (it happened at 2pm today).   They are known for the explosive timing of their breeding (they get it done in a day or two) and speedy metamorphosis (eggs hatch in three weeks, tadpoles morph into frogs in 6-9 weeks).

Adult wood frogs are able to survive the winter hibernating in forest debris.  Despite the fact that their body freezes (they've become know as "frog-sicles"), when they thaw, they're ready to hop.  

When the weather warms up in early spring, they head to water en masse, call for mates, pair-up, deposit their black eggs in gelatinous masses, then disappear back to the woods.

Today was my lucky day.

I watched wood frogs en masse - in amplexus, their copulatory embrace.  

It was an incredible frenzy of quacking frogs putting the squeeze on each other.

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