ribbit-ribbit-ribbit Wait! what? World Frog Day? Yep, sure enough. If you missed it on 20 March, you can jump at the chance next year. It is a time to reflect on frogs, and toads, their importance to our environment, and bringing awareness to saving them from extinction. Speaking of which, over the past decade the world has lost about 170 species of frogs to extinction. The United States Geological Survey considers the top threats to frog decline as: human influence (changing frog habitats), disease (chytrid fungus), pesticide application, and climate change. In the US frog loss is about 3.8% per year.
Because of the frogs’ sensitivities to the environment, one may consider them as the canary in the coal mine. A frog has lungs, but actually breathes through his skin. it’s called cutaneous gas exchange. It exchanges oxygen for carbon dioxide passing the gases through the skin by diffusion. Due to this frogs are extremely susceptible to droughts, ultraviolet radiation, pollutants, and environmental toxins. So, as an early warning system, one might call them the frog in the ecosystem. Not difficult to extrapolate the demise of frogs to the decline in environmental quality.
Of the 6,000 known species of frogs worldwide, approximately 300 are found in the US, 44 of those in Texas. There are a few that should be on your watch list in East Texas. These are all primarily wetlands species found around or in swamps, ponds, lakes, and streams.
- The Green Frog (Rana clamitans – Rana is the Latin word for “frog.”), name is a bit deceiving as they range in color from greenish brown to greenish yellow. Some may even be blue. A close cousin not often seen is the Bronze Frog (Rana clamitans clamitans). This species is rated as Least Concern on the endangered list.
- Pig Frog (Rana grylio) is an olive to blackish brown coloration causes folks to mis-identify it as a bullfrog, although half the size. After mating the female may lay as many as 10,000 eggs that hatch in 2 – 3 days as large tadpoles. Not listed as special status on the Endangered Species list.
- Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris) has dark brown spots in two rows along the back As one of the few poisonous frogs found in the US, they produce toxic skin secretions that are irritating to humans, so do not eat them. Many frog-eating snakes avoid these frogs for this reason. Listed as stable on the Endangered Species list, but declining.
- Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala) are slender with long legs and sharply pointed heads. One can find them along ponds and streams especially after a heavy rain. They are important in the food chain to Great Blue Herons and water snakes. Oh, and due to their large rear legs, humans find them delightful, as well. Listed as Least Concern on the Endangered Species list.
As a 17 year old my friend and I would go frog-giggin’ on an occasional Saturday night. Wading around a pond in the dark carrying a spring-loaded frog gig and shining a headlight around the lilypads. We would bring home a mess of frogs, clean ‘em up, and fry ‘em up. As we say in southeast Texas,, “Man, ça, c’est bon”. In case you are interested, check out this recipe. BTW: A hunting license is required with a limit of 25 frogs.
Oh, I forgot to mention toads. Sorry. That is another article. I will hop to it ASAP.
Note: Photos from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Herps of Texas: Frogs and Toads of Texas.
Sources: Herps of Texas: Frogs and Toads of Texas, Frog Watch USA: Texas, iNaturalist: Amphibians of Texas, Animal Diversity Web. You can download a really cool app called Frog Sounds – Toad, Greenhouse Frog.