September 30 – Lost In A Frog

Today’s factismal: When a bullfrog is happy (or looking for Mrs. Bullfrog), his call is “jug-o-rum”; when a bullfrog is frightened, his call is “meow”.

There is no amphibian more celebrated in America than the bullfrog. From Mark Twain’s classic paean to its leaping abilities to the traditional childhood rite of passage of watching tadpoles transform into frogs (that you then stick in your sister’s bed) to the annual festival celebrating all things froggy in Rayne, LA, the bullfrog is a central feature of American heritage. And for good reason!

A bullfrog sitting on a leaf near a pond (Image courtesy US FWS)

A bullfrog sitting on a leaf near a pond
(Image courtesy US FWS)

The American bullfrog is the largest frog native to the continent, coming in at eight inches long and just under two pounds in weight when it matures. It has a dark green skin, a bright green grin, and large eardrums visible on either side of its head. The bullfrog prefers a water-rich environment, such as a swamp, river, or bathtub, but will survive even in a more arid one. Though it was originally found only on the East coast, it has since been spread across the continent and to many places (such as China, Europe, and Brazil) that really didn’t want them. In short, this frog is a survivor.

A bullfrog sitting like a bump on a log (Image courtesy US FWS)

A bullfrog sitting like a bump on a log
(Image courtesy US FWS)

Which it has to be, considering that just about everything around it considers the bullfrog to be a meal; storks, alligators, people, otters, and other amphibians. (It truly is a frog-eat-frog world!). But that is only fair, because the bullfrog will cheerfully feed on insects, small birds, mice, salamanders, turtles, and snails. It catches its prey by sneaking up in a series of small hops that culminate in a giant leap with the tongue shooting out to pull the morsel into the bullfrog’s eager jaws. If the frog’s eyes were bigger than its mouth, that’s no problem; like any two-year old with a big cookie, it just shoves the rest in with its hands.

Because bullfrogs and other frogs spend so much time in the water, they are excellent indicators of the environmental quality. (Lots of frogs means a good environment.) As a result, ecologists are very interested in learning more about where the different frogs live in Florida and they’ve created the Frog Listening Network to do it. If you’d like to participate in a frog expedition, then hop on over to:
http://www.hillsborough.wateratlas.usf.edu/fln/

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