Amphibian Week Day 3

May 5, 2021 • 3:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

For the midpoint of Amphibian Week, Chris Petersen of Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation sent me these amphibian facts.

Characteristics of Amphibians:

· Include frogs and toads, salamanders and caecilians (approximately 8,300 species worldwide)
· All are vertebrates (have a backbone)
· Are ectothermic (meaning they rely on external sources from the surrounding environment to maintain their body temperature)
· Most live part of their life in water and part on land (although there are many exceptions)
· Most have moist glandular skin through which they can respire (breathe) to various extents (some exclusively so, but most also through lungs or gills)
· Lay unshelled (jelly-like) eggs in moist to wet environments
· Most go through a process called metamorphosis to develop from a water-living life stage to a land-living stage

I then headed out to Greenquist Pond here at UW-Parkside to see what amphibians were about. You’ll recall that Chorus Frogs and American Toads have been calling on campus, but I hadn’t seen them at this pond. Here’s what I found.

Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, Greenquist Pond, Somers, Wisconsin, 5 May 2021.

I walked around three sides of the pond, and heard or briefly saw several Rana jump into the water, many emitting a little “yelp” as they dove in. I think both Green Frogs (Rana clamitans) and Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) make that noise, so I wasn’t sure of the species. All were smallish, except for one that was bigger, but could have been either a large Green or a medium Bullfrog in size. I was heading back, reconciled to failure, when I spotted this medium-sized Bullfrog on the bank, which didn’t spook. I was able to get pretty close to get this shot, and even was using sticks to bend shadowing leaves out of the way, but it stayed put.

The Green Frogs and American Toads I showed in earlier Amphibian Week 2021 posts were also from this pond, but I’ve not seen them at the pond yet this year. (Some of the frogs today may have been Green Frogs.)

There were also turtles, so I’ll cheat a bit (they are reptiles, of course) and throw them in here. There were four five Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta),

Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta, Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May 2021.

plus this Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), with another two Painted Turtles behind.

Red-eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, and , in back, two Painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta, Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May

There were a total of four five Painted Turtles, all with the slider in this corner of the pond. The slider is the most popular turtle in the pet trade, and is not native to Wisconsin. Although we find them not infrequently, they all seem to be released or escaped– they don’t seem to breed up here, even though they can survive the winters. (I had my own “Spot the …” moment– I didn’t see the further back Painted Turtle in the above photo until I’d posted it here!)

27 thoughts on “Amphibian Week Day 3

  1. There is nothing like being on a lake or pond in the evening and hearing the bull frogs tune up calling each other. Urban folks who hear it for the first time think something big is happening or maybe they will be attacked. Usually you just feel everything is okay when you hear the bull frogs and wonder what is wrong if you don’t.

  2. I have not retained well how to tell the difference between a bullfrog and a green frog. One difference is that the green frog has a pair of ridges going down its back, starting from the ridge that partly encircles the eardrum. From that one can see that the above is indeed a bullfrog.
    But I will promptly forget this, as I always do, and will still wonder which I am looking at when next I see a really-big-frog.

  3. I wonder if anyone has figured out the northernmost breeding line for RE sliders. I have seen hatchlings in central New Jersey.

    1. That would have been a good question on the week of April 19-23, which was International Turtle and Tortoise week, according to my Turtle Survival Alliance/Turtle Room calendar.

      1. Got a cool Alligator snapper email from TSA yesterday. Tagging them in Texas / Houston area. Magnificent beasts…just jaw dropping. What a turtle!!!

  4. The “Clunk” of the green frogs is one of our sounds of summer. We have a pind directly behind our house. We have, at least:

    Green Frogs (Rana clamitans)
    Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer)
    Leopard Frogs (Rana pipiens)
    Tiger Salamaders (Ambystoma tigrinum)

    I’m sure there are other salamanders that we don’t see because they are more reclusive.

    Prairie Skinks (Plestiodon septentrionalis)
    Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta)
    Spiny Softshell Turtles (Apalone spinifera)
    Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina)

    I never saw a lizard growing up nearby in the 1960s and 1970s. I would have been thrilled to see one. Now the Prairie Skinks are very common.

    The amphibians are often consumed by:
    Great Egrets (Ardea alba)
    Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias)
    Green Herons (Butorides virescenst)

    We have at least one pair of Green Herons raise a brood in the trees around our pond every summer.

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