// Twitter Cards // Prexisting Head The Biologist Is In: Night of the Hopping Amphibians!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Night of the Hopping Amphibians!

I recently went out to my car after dark to retrieve a bag of pine-cones (for a later posting). On my way down the stairs, I heard a "churp" and saw a grey, patterned frog a few steps down. I politely stepped aside, then scooped it up. I set it down in a shallow puddle on one of the steps and continued to my car. When I opened the door, the light cast downwards onto a toad who was hiding flat-like against the gravel. I scooped it up too, then set it on a nearby wall where I would be able to find it in a minute or two. I retrieved the items from my car and quickly returned inside to grab my camera and a light source.

Hopper #1
On the way back down the stairs, I picked up the frog again and placed it on a vertical part of the railing. It took a few pictures before I got one I liked. What I thought was a very bright LED flashlight turned out to be just barely bright enough to get decent exposures with the lens I was using.

Hopper #2
The toad was hunkered down into a shallow spot on the wall. This was perfectly fine for taking its portrait, as it let me brace the camera against the very stable concrete. I picked the toad back up and placed it on the ground near the base of the wall.

Hopper #3
After finding the two critters, I took a walk around the house to see if I could find any more. I didn't immediately notice any, but I did notice I had left a pepper plant where deer would be able to get to it. I started to move the pepper to a more protected location when a little green frog came popping out.

Hopper #4
After another quick search, I headed back inside. As I came up the steps, I found the first frog was where I had left it. I also found a smaller grey frog about a foot further up the railing.

We've just had an intensely rainy day and the warm season is far enough along that there are plenty of bugs around. This was apparently the perfect night to go looking for amphibians.

The three frogs likely belong to the same species. They could be either the "Cope's Grey Treefrog" (Hyla chrysoscelis) or the "Grey Treefrog" (H. versiclor). Both species change color from a pale grey, to near black, to bright green depending on their emotional state and the surroundings they're trying to hide in. It can be difficult to be sure which species is in hand. They have slightly different patterns of coloration and different pitches to their calls. Biologically, the biggest difference between them is in how many chromosomes they have. H. chrysoscelis is diploid, while H. versicolor is tetraploid. I suspect the frogs in my yard are H. versicolor, based on the example photos I've found, but I'm really not certain.

The identification of the toad is much simpler because the "American Toad" (Anaxyrus americanus) is a distinct member of the few toad species known in Minnesota.