Sunday, May 03, 2009

Porch Light Protector

Near the porch light tucked snuggly along the edge of the siding is a small grayish mass that sits motionless. Its beady eyes stare blankly at me as I reach for the gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor), a common find in this area. It is very difficult to hang onto due to mucous produced by glands found in its skin. This mucous keeps its skin moist and is also emitted from its knobby toe pads enabling it to adhere to just about any surface (via surface tension). Mostly mottled gray in color, they have chameleon-like abilities that enable it to change colors (green, brown, gray) to match that of their surroundings. Place this frog on the trunk of a tree and it literally disappears. Its inner thigh is washed in bright orange or yellow distinguishing them from other tree frogs.

They’re arboreal, meaning they spend ample time in association with trees or shrubs and are mostly active at night when males do all of their calling especially following a rain storm . Being active at night is done in order to lessen their chances of being eaten by predators such as birds, snakes, and raccoons but the larger bullfrog, another predator, is wise to this and will stalk the males as they call. Their diet consists of beetles, ants, mites, spiders, harvestman, snails, and caterpillars. They've also been known to be “opportunistic cannibals” meaning if the opportunity presents itself they will catch and consume smaller frogs of their own species. Their blood contains glycerol which acts as an “antifreeze” enabling them to survive cold winters. While hibernating in leaf litter and logs they literally enter into a sort of suspended animation in which all of their internal organs shut down including their lungs and heart. When spring arrives they “thaw” out and then go about their business of being frogs.

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