chameleon tree frog

Gray tree frog

The Gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) is a species of small arboreal frog native to much of the United States and into Canada. It is sometimes referred to as the North American common tree frog.

Physical description

As their species name Hyla versicolor implies, gray tree frogs are highly variable in color. In their natural habitat, possible colors include gray, yellow, brown and green. The degree of mottling also varies. They can change from nearly black to nearly white. They change colors more slowly than a chameleon. Dead gray tree frogs and ones in unnatural surroundings are predominantly gray in color. They are relatively small compared to other North American frog species, typically attaining no more than 1.5 to 2 inches (4cm to 5cm) in length. Their skin has a lumpy texture to it, giving them a warty appearance. They are virtually indistinguishable from the Cope's Gray Tree Frog, Hyla chrysoscelis, the only readily noticeable difference being their call. Cope's Gray Tree Frog also has an extra set of chromosomes, twice as many as Hyla versicolor.

Both Hyla chrysoscelis and Hyla versicolor have bright yellow patches on the hind legs, which distinguishes them from other tree frogs, such as Hyla avivoca (Martof et al. 1980). The bright patches are normally only visible while the frog is jumping. Both species of Gray tree frogs are slightly sexually dimorphic. Males have black or gray throats, while the throat of the female is lighter (Tyning 1990).

Tadpoles have a rounded body (as opposed to the more elongated bodies of stream species) with a high, wide tail that can be colored red if predators are in the system. Metamorphosis can occur in as little as 2 months with optimal conditions. At metamorphosis, the new froglets will almost always turn green for a day or two before changing to the more common gray. Young frogs will also sometimes maintain a light green color and turn gray or darker green after reaching adulthood.

Geographic range

Gray tree frogs inhabit a wide range, and can be found in most of the eastern half of the United States, as far west as central Texas. They also range into Canada in the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba, with an isolated population in New Brunswick.


Gray tree frogs are primarily arboreal, spending time in wooded areas, usually not far from a permanent water source. On rainy evenings they can often be found calling in or near shallow, temporary pools of water, and often in your swimming pool . They are nocturnal and insectivorous, consuming most any small arthropod they can catch. They will also eat algae if readily available. Mating occurs throughout the spring and summer months.They also will change colors, as in a light green to a gray, to match their habitat.

In captivity

Wild caught gray treefrogs are frequently found in the pet trade. They make excellent, undemanding captives. A moderately humid vivarium of live plants is generally quite adequate to house them, along with a varied diet of commercially available crickets, small moths, caterpillars, mealworms, flies, spiders and other insects. Be sure to provide a source of water for your tree frog or mist frequently to keep the skin moist. These pets are common in and around the Oklahoma and Missouri region, and are nocturnal like many other tree frogs.


There are several environmental changes that affect Hyla versicolor, including ones that result from human land use and development. Studies indicate that Hyla versicolor is moderately tolerant of pH levels as low as 3.5. UV-B radiation does not affect egg and larvae survival, but does reduce swimming activity. 200 – Concentrations of 2,000 micro grams per liter of Atrazine, a globally used herbicide used against pre- and post-emergence broadleaf and grassy weeds in major crops, gave tadpoles 10% less body mass and were 5% shorter than normal water concentrations. The larval period also took 5% longer in the greater concentration. Carbaryl, also known as Sevis, is the third-most-used insecticide. By itself, it does not hurt things, but UV-B radiation photoenhances its toxicity, reducing swimming activity and killing 10% - 60% of the tadpoles exposed to weak concentrations of this chemical for long periods of time. If predatory cues were also present, it killed an even greater 60% - 98% of the tadpoles. They are very common in East Texas. They are both predators and prey. One of their largest predators is the north Texas bull frog.

See also

External links


  • Database entry includes a range map and justification for why this species is of least concern.
  • Herps of Texas: Gray Tree Frog
  • Animal Diversity Web: Hyla versicolor
  • Bernard S. Martof et al. (1980). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4252-4.
  • Thomas F. Tyning (1990). A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-81719-8.

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