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Created: 4/8/2015 Updated: 8/2/2016
April is National Frog Month, and we're marking it with weekly frog and toad-focused live feedings, as well as weekly frog and toad Critter Connections. Since these toad-ally cool critters are going to be in the spotlight this month, we thought we would take a closer look at the different species you might find in Mysteries of the Marsh and our Look-In Lab.
Northern Leopard Frog
Although they can have lots of color variations, the most common variations are green and brown. As the name implies, they are distinguishable by the large, dark circular spots on their back, sides and legs, which are normally bordered by a lighter ring. They're often found in ponds, swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams, preferring to inhabit bodies of water that have abundant aquatic vegetation. In the summer, they'll actually leave the ponds and move to grassier areas and lawns.
Although the Pickerel and Leopard frogs are similar at a glance, you can tell them apart by taking a closer look at their spots -- while Leopard Frogs have circular spots, Pickerels have irregular rectangular spots. Pickerel Frogs are also uncommon in Illinois, while Leopard Frogs are widesparead. Northern Pickerel Frogs prefer to live near cold, clear water, preferring rocky ravines, bogs and meadow streams. They can also be found around lakes and rivers that are heavily wooded. Unlike many of our other native frogs, Pickerels have a unique defense mechanism -- they can emit skin secretions which are actually toxic to some predators. For humans, the secretions generally only cause skin irritation, but it's important to wash your hands after handling them. This clever defense mechanism makes the Pickerel the only poisonous frog native to the United States!
Northern Cricket Frog
These small, warty frogs generally grow between 1.5 and 3.5 centimeters long. Unlike other frogs, they actually don’t have toe pads, which you can see if you look closely. They can be gray, brown or green and prefer open, shallow water with plenty of vegetation. And, as you probably guessed, their calls resemble that of a cricket.
Gray Tree Frog
While their name suggests that they're only gray in color, Gray Tree Frogs are generally gray, green or brown depending on what they’re sitting on. They can actually change their camouflage from nearly black to nearly white, though they do change at a slower rate than a chameleon. Also, as their name would suggest, they're common in forested areas and are highly arboreal. In fact, they rarely ever descend from the treetops, with the main exception of breeding. Their calls are often heard in rural residential areas of the east coast and Midwest.
Want more National Frog Month fun? Hop on over to our Instagram account! We'll be featuring a new frog or toad friend every Friday as part of our month-long #FrogFriday series. Not on Instagram? You can still follow along by jumping over to our Twitter account or Facebook page!View Comments
Created: 8/7/2014 Updated: 8/9/2016
At the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, volunteers feed different groups of animals on different days as part of public interpretative programs (PIP). Recently, to keep things fresh for volunteers and visitors, the schedule was shuffled, and now aquatic animals are fed on Monday, fish on Tuesday, Blanding’s turtles on Wednesday, water snakes on Thursday, box turtles on Friday, and endangered turtles on Saturday.
Leopard Frog wearing his lunch
And on Sunday, frog and toad feeding takes place in the Look-in-Lab, where the volunteers offer crickets by hand or tweezers to the anurans in tanks along the viewing window. (Frogs and toads belong to the order of amphibians called “anura” so collectively are referred to as “anurans.”) The session is entertaining for visitors; they laugh when a volunteer involuntarily jerks her hand back as the critter grabs mouth first for its meal (you tell yourself not to, but it is a reflex that is hard to overcome), and they applaud when the critter gets the cricket. To make the feeding educational as well, other volunteers stand on the public side of the window to provide visitors information about frog and toad diets and habits.
Frogs and toads are usually sit-and-wait predators, relying on camouflage to hide their motionless bodies until an unsuspecting potential meal moves within reach of a lunge and “lingual flip:” the tongue flips out and slaps on the target and then flips back with the prey stuck on. This capture technique is made possible by a tongue that is attached to the front of the jaw and free at the back (unlike those of humans and other animals) and by a gummy mucous exuded at the instant of contact. Thus, the anuran tongue does not shoot out like the tongue of a chameleon or a cartoon frog. The whole action takes less than 15/100ths of a second, faster than our eyes can follow. Below is a cool, slow motion video of a leopard frog flipping up a waxworm with its tongue.
Frogs and toads have teeth but only along their upper jaws. Their teeth are weak and are not used to chew or tear, but to hold prey before it is gulped down whole. Their eyes help anurans swallow their meals; an emphatic blink presses their eyeballs through holes in the skull, pushing food down the throat.
Most frogs and toads eat insects, spiders, worms, larvae, and slugs, although larger species may also eat small birds, reptiles, or amphibians. Every two to three weeks, the Museum orders 2,500 crickets (1,000 small, 1,000 medium, and 500 large) -- between 65,000 and 44,000 a year. They are fed not only to the frogs and toads, but also to the Museum’s salamanders, some turtles, aquatic insects, and spiders.
The Museum has 12 species of anurans, all also found wild in Illinois: Fowler’s toad, American toad, pickerel frog, green frog, leopard frog, plains leopard frog, chorus frog, cricket frog, wood frog, green tree frog, Cope’s tree frog, and gray tree frog.
Cindy GrayView Comments
PIP and Animal Care Volunteer