Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Episode 570 (3-29-21): Peepers Sound a Chorus that Signals Spring and Water

Click to listen to episode (3:49)

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Images
Extra Information
Sources
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 3-26-21.

TRANSCRIPT OF AUDIO

From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of March 29, 2021.  This revised episode from April 2012 is part of a series this year of spring-related episodes.

SOUND  – ~ 6 sec

This week, we feature an amphibious, sign-of-spring mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 10 more seconds, and see if you recognize this chorus, which you may have heard on spring evenings in areas near standing water.

SOUND  - 10 sec 

If you guessed Spring Peeper frogs, you’re right!  Spring Peepers, occurring throughout the eastern and central United States and Canada, are one of seven native chorus frog species in Virginia.  Their choruses are the combination of mating calls produced by many individual males when air in a throat pouch is drawn across the voice box.  The mating calls occur in Virginia from February to June, but Spring Peeper sounds often can be heard again in the Commonwealth in fall as days shorten and temperatures cool.

Like other frogs, toads, and salamanders, Spring Peepers are amphibians, and they rely on water for reproduction.  Winter and spring precipitation provide ephemeral – or temporary – ponds and pools, where many amphibians’ eggs transform into tadpoles and eventually into adults that, in many species, move onto land. 

For Spring Peepers, breeding takes place in a variety of water bodies and wetlands near trees, shrubs, or other vegetation on which females deposit their eggs.  After hatching into tadpoles—known scientifically as larvae—Spring Peeper’s metamorphosis to adult takes about three months, after which the adults move into woodlands.

As tadpoles, Spring Peepers feed on material suspended in the water.  The adults feed on a variety of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.  Predators on Spring Peeper tadpoles include giant water bugs, predaceous diving beetles, and dragonflies, while the adults may fall prey to salamanders, spiders, snakes, owls, and other birds.

You’re not likely to see these one-inch-long frogs, but their loud mating calls are prevalent across the Commonwealth in spring and early summer, reminding us of the presence and importance of wetlands and small seasonal bodies of water.

We close by letting Spring Peepers have the last call—a springtime chorus that I hope resounds at some water near you.

SOUND  - ~7 sec

SHIP’S BELL

Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

AUDIO NOTES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The episode is a revised version of Episode 105, 4-2-12.  Virginia Water Radio thanks Heather Longo (formerly Heather Vereb) for researching and writing that episode.

The Spring Peeper sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio at Heritage Park in Blacksburg, Va., on March 21, 2020.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at http://newstandardbluegrass.com.

IMAGE

Spring Peeper, photographed at Virginia Beach, Virginia, September 23, 2017.  Photo by user Rae1211, made available on iNaturalist at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/8082565 (as of 3-26-21) for use under Creative Commons license “Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0.”  Information about this Creative Commons license is available online at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

EXTRA INFORMATION ABOUT SPRING PEEPERS

The scientific name of Spring Peeper is Pseudacris crucifer.

The following information on Spring Peepers is taken from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), “Fish and Wildlife Information Service/Spring Peeper,” online at https://services.dwr.virginia.gov/fwis/booklet.html?&bova=020071&Menu=_.Taxonomy&version=18711.  

Physical Description

“This species ranges in length from 19-35 mm (0.75-1.5 in).  Dorsal coloration can be yellow, tan, brown, gray, or olive with a distinctive dark X-shaped mark.  The northern subspecies found here in Virginia has a plain or virtually plain belly.  There is typically a dark bar-like marking between the eyes.  Males have dark throats and are usually smaller and darker than the females.”

Reproduction

“This species breeds from February through May in woodland ponds, swamps, and ditches.  Choral groups are found where trees or shrubs are standing in water or nearby.  Mating call is a high piping whistle repeated about once every second.  A large chorus resembles the sound of sleigh bells.  Sometimes an individual exhibits a trilling peep in the background of a large chorus.  Females lay an average of 900 eggs per clutch.  Eggs are laid singly and attached to submerged vegetation or other objects.  Eggs hatch in an average of 6 days.  Metamorphosis occurs in an average of 45 days though a range of 3 to 4 months is also reported.  Individuals typically reach sexual maturity at 1 year.”

Behavior

“This species inhabits woodlands under forest litter or within brushy undergrowth.  They are particularly abundant in brushy secondary growth or cutover woodlots if they are close to small temporary or semi-permanent ponds or swamps.  Specimens are rarely seen outside of the breeding season though occasionally an individual can be found traveling through the woods by day in wet weather.  Their diet consists primarily of small arthropods. This species may fall prey to large spiders.  This species has been shown to tolerate temperatures of -6 degrees Celsius for 5 days.  At the end of that period, approximately 35% of body fluids were frozen.  This and other species that tolerate extreme cold temperatures were shown to have high levels of glycerol in body tissues during the winter.  Glycerol is absent from body tissues in the summer.  …This species requires marshy ponds, ditches, and swamps with proximal shrubs.”

SOURCES

Used for Audio

Lang Elliott, The Calls of Frogs and Toads, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Penn., 2004.

John D. Kleopfer and Chris S. Hobson, A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia, Special Publication Number 3, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, 2011.

Bernard S. Martof et al., Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1980.

Robert Powell et al., Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston and New York, 2016.

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, “Animal Diversity Web,” online at https://animaldiversity.org.  The Spring Peeper entry is online at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Pseudacris_crucifer/.

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), “Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at https://services.dwr.virginia.gov/fwis/.  The Spring Peeper entry is online at https://services.dwr.virginia.gov/fwis/booklet.html?&bova=020071&Menu=_.Taxonomy&version=18711.  Entries for Virginia’s seven chorus frog species (in the genus Pseudacris) are at this link.  Entries for amphibians in Virginia are at this link. 

___, “List of Native and Naturalized Fauna in Virginia, April 2018,” online (as a PDF) at https://dwr.virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/virginia-native-naturalized-species.pdf.

Virginia Herpetological Society, (VHS), “Frogs and Toads of Virginia,” online at https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/amphibians/frogsandtoads/frogs_and_toads_of_virginia.htm.  The Spring Peeper entry is online at http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/amphibians/frogsandtoads/northern-spring-peeper/northern_spring_peeper.php.  (The VHS supports the scientific study of amphibians (frogs, toads, and salamanders) and reptiles (lizards, snakes, and turtles.)

___, “Virginia Frog Phrenology (Calling/Breeding Periods), online (as a PDF) at https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/amphibians/frogsandtoads/_phenology/va-frog-and-toad-phenology.pdf.

For More Information about Amphibians in Virginia and Elsewhere

AmphibiaWeb, online at https://amphibiaweb.org/index.html.  The Spring Peeper entry is online at https://amphibiaweb.org/cgi/amphib_query?where-genus=Pseudacris&where-species=crucifer&account=amphibiaweb.

Kathleen Gaskell, Chesapeake Challenge—Spring peepers will trill you to pieces, Bay Journal, March 2021.

J.C. Mitchell and K.K. Reay, Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Virginia, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries/Richmond (1999); available online (as a PDF) at https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/atlases/mitchell-atlas.pdf, courtesy of the Virginia Herpetological Society.

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, “Frog Friday: Where Do Frogs Go in Winter?” December 11, 2015, online at https://dwr.virginia.gov/blog/frog-friday-where-do-frogs-go-in-the-winter/.

___, “Virginia is for Frogs,” online at https://dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/virginia-is-for-frogs/.

___, “Wildlife Information,” online at https://dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/information/.  This site lists wildlife animals found in Virginia, with links to species accounts.

RELATED VIRGINIA WATER RADIO EPISODES

All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Amphibians” subject category.

Following are links to other spring-themed episodes.  (Please note: several of these may be redone in spring 2021.  As that occurs, the links below will include directions to the blog post for the updated episodes.)

Eastern Phoebe – Episode 416, 4-16-18.
Frog and Toad Medley – Episode 408, 2-19-18.
Spring arrival episode – Episode 569, 3-22-21.
Spring forest wildflowers – Episode 212, 5-5-14.
Spring reminder about tornado awareness – Episode 568, 3-15-21.
Spring signals for fish – Episode 311, 4-11-16.
Spring sounds serenades –
Episode 206, 3-14-14 and Episode 516, 3-16-20.
Warblers and spring bird migration – Episode 157, 4-15-13.

Following are links to some other episodes on chorus frogs.

Brimley’s Chorus Frog – Episode 563, 2-8-21.
Chorus frogs group in Virginia – Episode 464, 3-18-19.
Little Grass Frog (along with Wood Frog) – Episode 509, 1-27-20.

FOR VIRGINIA TEACHERS – RELATED STANDARDS OF LEARNING (SOLs) AND OTHER INFORMATION

Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2018 Science SOLs 

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes
1.5 – Animals, including humans, have basic life needs that allow them to survive.
2.4 – Plants and animals undergo a series of orderly changes as they grow and develop, including life cycles.
2.5 – Living things are part of a system.
3.4 – Adaptations allow organisms to satisfy life needs and respond to the environment.
3.5 – Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems support a diversity of organisms.
4.2 – Plants and animals have structures that distinguish them from one another and play vital roles in their ability to survive.
4.3 – Organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
4.8. – Virginia has important natural resources.

Life Science
LS.6     – Populations in a biological community interact and are interdependent.
LS.7 – Adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem. 

Biology
BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18
– on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.