April is National Frog Month!
Meet the Aquarium’s Resident Frogs
If you were anything like me when you were growing up, summer was filled with flipping over rocks and logs to see what crawled out from underneath them and always being on the lookout for a frog or toad. That said, this month we honor our hopping friends: April is typically when frogs have begun to reemerge, and, in some areas of the country, have already laid eggs. These will soon become tadpoles, if they have not already done so.
Here at the Aquarium, you can meet three different species of frogs:
- Poison dart frogs
- Pac-Man frog
- Cane toad
The poison dart frogs (family Dendrobatidae)can be seen when you explore our Freshwater Gallery. This gallery brings you from North America—and the rivers, lakes, and ponds of our backyards—all the way to the Amazon region in South America, where these frogs typically make their homes. Our poison dart frogs eat fruit flies, not the toxic insects they normally eat in the wild, so they’re actually not poisonous. These frogs are only a few centimeters long as adults and like very humid areas. If you look closely, there is a water feature and simulated rain to help keep the frogs comfortable, as well as live plants to complete the effect.
Going up a few sizes, we meet our resident Argentine horned frog (Ceratophrys ornata), also known as a Pac-Man frog. His name is Clyde, and you may see him during our Live Animal Presentations in the Blue Planet Action Center. These frogs have shorter legs compared to most frogs, so they spend a lot of time burrowed in the mud waiting in ambush.
Lastly, our Cane toad (Rhinella marina) is aptly named Michael Caine and he is our resident big boy. These toads will eat anything they can swallow: carrion and insects such as beetles, honeybees, ants, and crickets. Michael eats earthworms, crickets, waxworms, and the occasional mouse.
Growing up, you may have learned that frogs and toads are completely different animals. So, what is the difference between a frog and toad?
Have you ever heard that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares? Well toads and frogs are a similar situation. Squares are a very specific classification of rectangles in which all four sides are the exact same length, but they follow all the other rules that make a rectangle (four sides, angles are all 90 degrees).
All toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads. They have similar modes of transportation, similar diet, and a similar way of hunting. However, many toads have dry and rough skin whereas frogs are generally smooth and slick. There are also differences in habitat, where many frogs must be near the water and toads prefer to stay on land. That said, all toads need to lay their eggs in water but many frogs can lay eggs on land. Toads will lay their eggs in strands or strings, but frogs lay their eggs in masses.
Many of our local amphibians rely on vernal pools, which are pockets of water that show up seasonally and then dry up. Due to the seasonality, they do not make good homes for fish, and therefore perfect places for frogs and toads to lay eggs. Though small and sporadic, each of these ponds are critical to our local ecosystems and can be easily be disrupted or destroyed by development.
P.S. Ever pick up a frog or toad and it pees on you? Yeah, that is for self-defense. It may be gross, but in the wild it is a clever tactic to cover its scent while it escapes!