Everyone is quite familiar with the amazing transformation of a caterpillar – chrysalis – to a butterfly but there are many other incredible transformations in nature that are just as spectacular. Grubs to beetles, maggots to flies, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs to mature dragonflies and damselflies and frogs and toads from egg to tadpole to froglet and toadlet and there are many others to numerous to mention. In years of passionate observations of amphibians I have continued to marvel at the life of these amazing creatures. Not only are they wonderful to observe, they are also extremely important environmental indicators as their skin is very susceptible to toxins in their wetland and terrestrial habitats.
One of the most common frogs in the Piedmont of Georgia is the green frog. These frogs are fairly large but certainly not as big as large bullfrogs and the easiest way to tell green frogs from bullfrogs is to look for the presence of two folds down the back. Green frogs have these folds or ridges known as dorsal lateral ridges whereas bullfrogs have a smooth back. The calls are also very different and the green frog is also known as a banjo frog as their call sounds like the plunking of a loose banjo string.
As the males call to lure in females the activity in a pond can get very frenzied. At times, ponds with a lot of floating vegetation can literally be covered in frogs. Once a male finds a female, it typically does not take long before egg laying begins. The eggs are usually deposited on the surface attaching to aquatic vegetation. The eggs are small round and black and the male encases the eggs in a gelatinous mass that is extremely slippery to the touch. Depending upon water temperatures, the warmer the water the more quickly the eggs hatch, and soon there are hundreds of little tadpoles wiggling free from the mass.
The tadpoles fall prey to many things including aquatic insects, turtles, snakes, birds and many others. Any creature that produces large numbers of young typically indicate that there are considerable predators and it takes lots of young to insure the survival of the species from one year to the next. The tadpoles quickly grow and soon develop hind legs. At this stage, it still looks like a tadpole but has two hind legs emerging from the rear of the body in front of the tail. Next, the front legs begin to grow out. As this occurs, the tail begins to recede and the tadpole’s mouth changes from a small mouth tadpole to a wide mouthed frog. The little froglet begins to spend time on top of vegetation and at this time their lungs have developed and they breathe air. Soon the tail is completely absorbed and metamorphosis is complete. The tiny froglet still has a long hard road to reaching maturity as the pond is still full of predators that enjoy feeding on little frogs. Once maturity is reached, the frog will take its place in the evening chorus of frogs competing for partners in which to pass along their genes to future offspring.
Our amphibian species play an incredibly important role in nature. Please consider these amazing creatures before you spray pesticides and herbicides as these creatures are extremely sensitive to toxins in their environment. I personally do not use chemicals in my yard and thus I have an amazing variety of frogs, toads and salamanders residing in my yard. On rainy nights, visitors to my home know that they need to look very carefully as they drive in or out of my driveway. The pavement often has a number of American and / or Fowlers toads as well as green, leopard, pickerel and bullfrogs and salamanders ranging from the slender two-lined to the robust and gorgeous spotted salamanders.