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Posts Tagged ‘Gray Treefrog’

I was very excited last Thursday when a passing photographer pointed out this little tree frog to me last Thursday as I was walking along a trail at Huntley Meadows Park. I think that it is a Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor), through there is a chance that it could be a Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis). According to the Virginia Herpetologcal Society, “Our two native gray treefrogs are identical in appearance. In the field the only two ways to distinguish H. chrysoscelis from H. versicolor is by their call and in some cases geographic location.”

The green and gray pattern on its body looks unusual to me and makes it look like the frog has lichen on its back. The Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute website notes that, “The gray tree frog’s scientific name is Hyla versicolor, which comes from the Latin for “variable color.” It is named for its ability to alter its skin color based on the time of day and surrounding temperature. The skin becomes much lighter at night and darker during the day.”

I was starting to feel a little cold as I was observing the tree frog and wondered what would happen to it in the winter. I was shocked to discover that Gray Tree Frogs hibernate during the cold weather. The Smithsonian website mentioned above states that, “The gray tree frog hibernates in the winter by taking refuge in trees. It survives freezing temperatures by producing glycerol to “freeze” itself while maintaining interior metabolic processes at a very slow rate.” Wow!

 

Gray Tree Frog

Gray Tree Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How is it possible to sneak up on a frog and grab it with such force that it is unable to escape as you slowly swallow it headfirst while it is still alive? With a mixture of horror and fascination, I witnessed part of the process yesterday when I spotted an Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) that had captured a Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor).

I was walking through the vegetation at the edge of a field when I spotted a part of the body of the ribbon snake. I moved closer as my eyes traced the body of the snake as I searched for its head. When I spotted the head from a distance, I was confused—it was enlarged like that of a hooded cobra and it was swaying back and forth. What was going on?

I slowed down and gradually came to realize that the snake had a struggling frog in its mouth and was holding it in the air so that the flailing legs had nothing to grab onto for leverage. The frog seemed so much bigger than the snake’s head that it seemed almost impossible that the snake could swallow it.

The snake slithered a short distance away with its partially swallowed prey and continued the process. I managed to get a glimpse of the astonishing extent to which the snake can open its mouth before the disappeared disappeared under a pile of wood to enjoy its meal in peace.

Initially I couldn’t identify the frog, but my good friend Walter Sanford made an initial identification and pointed me to the website of the Virginia Herpetological Society. I carefully read the information there and have concluded that the frog is probably a Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor), although it is possible it could be a Cope’s Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis). “Our two native gray treefrogs are identical in appearance. In the field the only two ways to distinguish H. chrysoscelis from H. versicolor is by their call and in some cases geographic location.”

I was particularly struck by the bright orange color on the hind legs of the frog. Wikepedia notes that both of the potential species have bright-yellow patches on their hind legs, which distinguishes them from other tree frogs and that “the bright patches are normally only visible while the frog is jumping.” Obviously the situation I witnessed is not “normal,” so I was able to see the colors, even though the frog was obviously not jumping.

I’ve included a small series of shots to give you a sense of the situation. They were all shot handheld with my Tamron 180mm macro lens.

Gray Treefrog

Gray Treefrog

Gray Treefrog

Gray Treefrog

Gray Treefrog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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