Spring Peepers

Photo from dnr.maryland.gov by Scott A. Smith

Early spring nights can be loud with the sound of male northern spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) vocalizing, using their throat sacks to attract mates. The small brown, tan, or greenish frog has a body about an inch or so in length and large toe pads for climbing. They usually only climb a foot or two above ground to vocalize. Crucifer, the Latin name for cross bearer in the Linnaeus nomenclature for this species, comes from a dark X, often not perfectly formed, on the back as well as the early spring peeper mating season being around the Easter holiday. Their habitat is in wetland areas in or near woodlands. Spring peepers are active in the night (nocturnal) and are considered to be carnivores, living on beetles, spiders, ticks, caterpillars, other insects, and worms.Human activity that has eliminated wetlands has reduced their habit, and their sensitivity to pollutants and sediment in surface water runoff has depleted populations in many areas. During the winter, spring peepers remain dormant under forest leaves, logs, or in mud. Their bodies survive freezing as a result of their production of glucose that serves as antifreeze. After mating in late winter and early spring, females lay about 1000 tiny eggs in strings. The hatch of tadpoles transform (metamorphose) with hind legs in early summer, and soon after, develop into juvenile frogs. An important part of the food chain, the prolific development of tadpoles and frogs during the year provides prey for many other species including fish, turtles, birds, raccoons, opossums, and snakes.

Article by Tom Anderson, FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 5/6/2018