Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Late Winter Chorus

While walking around Perry Phillips Lake, south of Columbia, this morning, I heard the first chorus frog calls of the season.  Resembling the sound produced by running your thumbnail down the teeth of a comb, the calls are delivered day and night as males gather in temporary pools to attract females.  Eggs are fertilized as they are laid and attach to vegetation in the base of the pools.  After hatching and undergoing metamorphosis, the young frogs spend the warmer months searching prairies and wetlands for insects and spiders, retreating beneath logs, rocks or leaf litter to rest or to escape danger.

Officially classified as boreal chorus frogs throughout most of Missouri (except in the Boot Heel region), these tiny amphibians are the first frogs to breed in the spring, their mating calls often heard by late February.  Potential prey for snakes, herons, fish, mink and raccoons, among other predators, surviving chorus frogs spend the winter encased in mud.

We humans, though pleased to hear their chorus in late winter and early spring, rarely notice these amphibians for most of the year and their vital role in natural ecosystems goes unacknowledged by the general public.  Unfortunately, such is the case for most species that inhabit our planet.