Acris crepitans

Acris crepitans

The Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans) is a species of small Hylid frog native to the United States and northeastern Mexico. Despite being members of the tree frog family, they are not arboreal. There are three recognized subspecies.

Description

The Northern Cricket Frogs is one of North America's two smallest vertebrates, ranging from 0.75 to 1.5 inches (19–38 mm) long. Their dorsal coloration varies widely, and includes greys, greens, browns, often in irregular blotching patterns. One NY biologist has identified 6 distinct colour morphs and 4 pattern morphs, and several intrergrades between these.(Westerveld,1977). Typically there is dark banding on the legs and a white bar from the eye to base of foreleg. The skin has a bumpy texture. It is very similar to the Southern Cricket Frog, Acris gryllus, found in the US Southeastern Coastal Plain, though there is some overlap along the fall line. The Southern Cricket Frog has longer legs, with less webbing on the hind feet, and a more pointed snout; Northern Cricket Frogs have been observed with snouts indistinguishable from those of the Southern species (Westerveld, 1998). The line on the back of its thigh is typically more sharply defined than that of the Northern Cricket Frog (Conant et al. 1998, Martof et al. 1980). Biologists have recorded Northern Cricket Frogs in the northern fringes of their range with extremely sharp posterior leg stripes.

Behavior & diet

Northern cricket frogs are diurnal and generally active much of the year, except in mid-winter in northern areas when the water is frozen. Their primary diet is small insects, including mosquitos. They in turn are predated upon by a number of species, including birds, fish, and other frogs. To escape predators, they are capable of leaping up to 6 feet in a single jump and are excellent swimmers.

Reproduction

Breeding generally occurs from May through July. The males call from emergent vegetation with a high pitched, short, pebble-like call which is repeated at an increasing rate. the sound suggests pebbles being clicked together, much like a cricket, hence the name. One egg is laid at a time and generally attached to a piece of vegetation. The 0.5 inch (14 mm) tadpoles hatch in only a few days and undergo metamorphosis in early fall. Maturity is usually reached in less than a year.

Habitat

Cricket frogs prefer the edges of slow moving, permanent bodies of water. Large groups of them can often be found together along the muddy banks of shallow streams, esp. during premigratory clustering. The Northern cricket frog has been observed to hibernate upland, often at considerable distance from water.

Subspecies

Geographic distribution

  • A. c. crepitans - from New York, south to Florida and west along the gulf coast states to Texas.
  • A. c. paludicola - southwestern Louisiana to eastern Texas.
  • A. c. blanchardii - Michigan and Ohio, south through to most of Texas and Mexico. Has been recorded in Minnesota and Colorado.

Conservation status

Frogs like the cricket frog are very important to humans as an indicator of water and general environmental quality in the areas they inhabit. Since the 1970s, populations of all amphibians have been in decline, which is largely believed to be attributable to the increase in use of fertilizers and pesticides. A. c. blanchardi is listed as a species of concern in the state of Michigan. Acris crepitans is listed as an endangered species in New York. The largest remaining population of Northern Cricket Frogs in New York State survives at Orange County's Glenmere lake/Black Meadow habitat. Biologists with the Glenmere Conservation Coalition studying the Glenmere/Black Meadow population hypothesize that chytrid fungus, responsible for some amphibian declines, to be the cause of the frog's decline at other locations, but the bi-monthly treatment of Glenmere's water, (unique to this singular Cricket Frog habitat) with the fungicide copper sulfate may in fact be helping this population avoid decline. Biologists in the Glenmere organization also consider factors such as predation by Turkey (Introduced immediately before NY's NCF decline became evident), herbicide use, and White-tail Deer (severely overpopulated in SE. NYS) over-browsing of transitional forest understory, crucial to NCF survival during their long, 1500' and farther, migration to upland hibernacula. In NY, biologists are examining a broader set of conditions which may have led to a synergistic extirpation event (Westerveld, 2007). They are also an endangered species in Minnesota.

Effects of UV radiation

Effects of Chytrid Fungal Infection

' Glenmere lake supports a healthy population of Northern Cricket Frogs, despite being treated six times per year with the fungicide "Copper Sulfate". This factor leads some to theorize the Northern Cricket Frog's decline at other locations may be from Chytrid sp. fungal infection and that the copper sulfate application may help eliminate this fungus.

References

  • Database entry includes a range map and justification for why this species is of least concern

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