Home Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

        

             

Ranidae family:  Green Frogs   Bullfrogs   Southern Leopard Frog  

Hylidae Family:  (Acris genus):  Northern Cricket Frogs   Southern Cricket Frogs   (Pseudacris genus)   Upland Chorus Frogs   (Hyla genus):  Gray Treefrogs   Green Treefrogs

Microhylidae family:   Eastern Narrowmouth Toad/Frog            Bufonidae family:   American Toads   Fowler's Toads

Tadpoles   Eggs

Frogs (and Toads) (order Anura, superorder Salientia, subclass Lissamphibia, class Amphibia, subphylum Vertebrata, phylum Chordata, kingdom Animalia, domain Eukaryota)                            

We all know about frogs and toads and what makes them different, don't we?  Frogs are smooth, green, maybe speckled amphibians frequently seen sitting on lilypads, while toads are warty creatures that hop around at night, of course.  Guess again!  Neither frogs nor toads are monophyletic, i.e., with all frogs coming from a single ancestor and all toads coming from another.  The common-use English words "frog" and "toad" might have come into use to distinguish two especially common families, those of Bufonidae ("true toads") and Ranidae ("true frogs").  However, professional zoologists use the term "frog" to include all of the animals shown on this page, and, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), divide them into 33 families within one order (as of 3/3/06).  The taxonomic classifications on this page are valid according to the ITIS.

According to Beltz (2005), there are three suborders of frogs: Archaeobatrachia, Mesobatrachia, and Neobatrachia, the last of which includes all the frogs (and toads) pictured on this page (but not all of those in this region). 

There are six families of frogs in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina:  in addition to Bufonidae and Ranidae, these are the Hylidae ("true" treefrogs), Microhylidae (no inclusive common name), Petobatidae (spadefoot toads in our neck of the woods, Mesobatrachids accordingly to Beltz), Centrolenidae (glass frogs and leaf frogs).   Chorus Frogs especially are much more likely to be heard than seen, while the Microhylidae, small and well hidden in marshes, make little contribution to the frog-as-opposed-to-toad visual stereotype.  This page should give you some help with frog and toad identification.

For a glimpse into where the lives and frogs and people intersect over in Raleigh, NC, see John Dancy-Jones' Raleigh Nature blog entry.

These classifications constitute valid taxa according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System.

True Frogs (Family Ranidae)

All of the frogs in this family shown below are members of the genus Rana, which contains over 200 species worldwide.

Green/Bronze Frogs (Rana clamitans)

Unlike the treefrogs, these and the Bullfrogs are generally very difficult to photograph.  They can spot me coming 20 feet away, and instantly leap into the water, taking a 90 angle if they first land on a rock, almost always ending up completely hidden.  The frogs pictured here are anomalous, either because they wound up in unusually small and shallow bodies of water because of a drought or because they chose to rely on imperfect camouflage. 

According to Herps of NC, there are two subspecies, the Northern "Green Frog," Rana clamitans clamitans, and the Southern "Bronze Frog." Rana clamitans melanota,"  which overlap in North Carolina (as well as in Alabama and Georgia).  On the other hand, The Animal Diversity website of the U. of Michigan simply mentions the bronze frog "population" under the heading "Other Comments."  Considering the confusing variations in green and brown coloration shown in these pictures, I can understand both points of view!

Probably a Green Frog, but the lighting in this wooded location was too dim for much detail, even after image enhancement.  Durham, 6/27/05 Green Frog, Durham, 9/12/05.  I spotted this frog in a nearly dried up drainage ditch in my neighborhood.  In this picture, the back looks brown. Same frog: in this picture, the back looks greenish. Male Green Frog, NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 3/30/05. Male Green Frog, NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 5/24/06

 

Male Green Frog, Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC, 7/23/04.  It was easy to locate this frog since he was making such a racket with his K'tung! sound.  Note the green on his face. Green Frog, NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 7/17/09

Bullfrogs (Rana catesbiana)

Bullfrog, Female, Dare County, NC, 10/6/05. Bullfrog, NC Botanical Garden, 3/14/06.  Partially submerged. Bullfrog, Lake Park, Carolina Beach, NC, 9/27/10

Bullfrog, Durham, 7/28/05.  This shows another green/brown variation pattern in pigment.  This frog and the ones on the left and right appeared in a creek in my neighborhood. Bullfrog, Durham, 8/6/05.  Seen in the same Durham creek. Bullfrog, Durham, NC, 4/2/07.  Seen at a stream leading off a drainage ditch in my neighborhood.  It uttered a squeaky "Yap!" as it jumped in the water.

Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala)

Southern Leopard Frog, near Albemarle Sound, Tyrrell County, NC, 9/24/04.  What a great surprise to find this rather large frog sitting under a tree right next to a seawall!

Treefrogs, Cricket Frogs and Chorus Frogs (Subfamily Hylinae, Family Hylidae)

Cricket and Chorus Frogs (Acris and Pseudacris genera) are usually found on the ground, in or near small, shallow bodies of water.   They are lively and alert, although their tendency to rely on their camouflage capabilities sometimes gives photographers a chance.

Photographing treefrogs (Hyla genus), on the other hand, is fairly easy if you locate the right habitat (especially a swamp).  They will sometimes come to you, landing on parts of your house if you live near woods.  They seem to rely mainly on camouflage, which works when they're small.  They are nocturnal and apparently very sleepy during the day.

Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans)

These frogs have chameleon-like abilities to change color to match their environment.

Northern Cricket Frog, Penny's Bend, Durham County, NC, 5/23/06 Northern Cricket Frog, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham, NC, 11/21/10 Northern Cricket Frog, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham, NC, 6/6/10 Northern Cricket Frog, Durham, 2/21/06.  Unlike other more lively frogs of its species in this mini-swamp, this frog had no green on its back.

 

         
Northern Cricket Frog, also at Penny's Bend, Durham County, NC, 5/23/06 Northern Cricket Frog, Indian Creek Trail, Chatham County, NC, 4/10/05, in the woods far from the Jordan Lake shore. Northern Cricket Frog, a Jordan Lake Gameland, Chatham County, NC, 10/29/06          

 

Northern Cricket Frog, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 4/5/06, on land a substantial distance from the Eno River. Northern Cricket Frog, Durham, NC, 4/7/06.  Taken at my (large) neighborhood marsh/swamp. Northern Cricket Frog, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 4/29/06 Northern Cricket Frog, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 10/21/06.  This frog was very far from water, on the side of a very tall hill in the woods.

 

Northern Cricket Frog, Durham, 10/28/05.  In mini-swamp in my neighborhood. Northern Cricket Frog, Durham, 3/5/06.  In mini-swamp in my neighborhood. Northern Cricket Frog, Indian Creek Wildlife Observation Trail, a Jordan Lake Game Land, Chatham County, NC, 4/19/06.  This frog was a great distance from water or any green plants so its color surprised me.

 

Northern Cricket Frog, a Jordan Lake Gameland, Chatham County, NC, 10/29/06 Northern Cricket Frog, Durham, NC, 2/18/08

 

Northern Cricket Frog, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 4/1/06.  Northern Cricket Frog,  Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, 2/19/08 Northern Cricket Frog, White Pines Natural Area, Chatham County, NC, 9/25/05

Upland Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris feriarum feriarum)

Contrary to what these photos suggest, Upland Chorus Frogs are not specifically sexually dimorphous.  There is great variation within this species, with its members having only the dark eye-stripe and white mouth-stripe in common (Conant and Collins, 1998).

Mating pair, NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 3/3/06

Gray Treefrogs and/or Cope's Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelus, Hyla versicolor)

These two species cannot be distinguished by sight, but are reputed to have different calls.

Gray Treefrog, Durham, NC, 9/15/07.  This treefrog still has a little green on its back, from being in transition to full adulthood.  See recent metamorphs with bright green on top below. Gray Treefrog, Durham, NC, 7/30/07.  This frog came out on our deck during a major rainstorm. Gray Treefrog, Durham, NC, 10/13/08 Gray (Copes?) Treefrog, Durham, NC, 5/22/09, resting on a wooden railing. Gray Treefrog (or Copes' Gray Treefrog), Durham, NC, 7/27/08 Gray Treefrog, Durham, NC, 9/3/05.

Dorsal and ventral views of two Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis or versicolor), Durham, 9/14/06.  There are some differences: 1) the patterns (white vs. mottled) on their chins, 2) the continuous vs. discontinuous dark band between the eyes and 3) the dorsal markings on the toes (spotty vs. dark stripes).  Pictures were taken at night during a long rain.

According to Yale Peabody Museum's (Herpetology) Online Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut, these are young adult (recent metamorphs from the tadpole stage) Gray Treefrogs that will look like the ones pictured above when they mature.  The green on top seems to provide an added measure of camouflage for these animals as they get used to being on land -- in fact, mostly above it.

Recent metamorph (Copes?) Gray Treefrog, a little less than an inch long Young Gray Treefrog, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, 8/24/05 Young Gray Treefrog, This tiny frog, also seen at Mason Farm on 8/24/05, looked to me like a rolled-up piece of dead leaf at a distance. Young Gray Treefrog or Copes' Gray Treefrog: note green on top.  Durham, 7/27/08. Young Gray Treefrog, Another view of the frog on the immediate left.  See the identifying light patch under the eye. Young Gray Treefrog, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Chapel Hill, NC, 10/03/04.  The first of its species that I photographed, very tiny and probably expecting to be overlooked.

 

Two Gray Treefrogs, Durham, NC, 7/13/06.  They and another of their species showed up early that morning in a power line cut.  They were each about an inch long.

Green Treefrogs (Hyla cinerea)

© 2006 Mick Phillips

Although it's quite apparent that Green Treefrogs are nocturnal, the alertness they show during the day varies widely.

Green Treefrog, Durham, 9/6/04.  The heavy rains this summer (2004) drove away the butterflies, but brought out the treefrogs.  This one took refuge on top of a door frame. Green Treefrog, Durham, NC, 8/26/12 Green Treefrog, escaping from the downpour the previous night, Third Fork Creek Trail, Durham, NC, 9/28/11 Green Treefrog, Durham, 8/14/05.  This wide-eyed treefrog was on a window of my house at night.  Note the spiders. Green Treefrog, Durham, 8/15/05.  Perhaps another view of the same frog. Green Treefrog, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 8/24/05.  This was one of several lively frogs. A very pale and skinny Green Treefrog at Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Siler's Bog, 4/1/06.

 

Green Treefrog, Durham, 9/14/05, probably trying to sleep in the swamp in my neighborhood. Same treefrog.  Note the yellow spots, which don't show up on the other Green Treefrogs on this page.

 

Three views of same Green Treefrog, Durham, 10/3/05.  More languid frogs in my neighborhood swamp!

 

Green Treefrog, Durham, 10/26/05.  This frog appeared near a fairly large wooded area. Green Treefrog, Durham, 10/31/05.  This underfed frog showed up in dried-up drainage ditch during a drought.  It did move fairly fast, however. Looks like a brown Green Treefrog.  Durham, 10/18/06.  Seen in a power line cut near a drainage ditch.

Unknown treefrog species

This was a rather anomalous treefrog seen in my local swamp on 8/28/05.  Apparently it has part of a tail left.

Microhylid Frog/Toad (Family Microhylidae, subfamily Microhylinae)

These tiny animals mostly hide in marshes and make bleating sounds.

Durham, 9/14/05.  Depending on your source, either an Eastern Narrowmouth Frog or Eastern Narrowmouth Toad, and its Latin name is Gastrophryne carolinensis (subfamily Microhylinae).  This frog/toad was about half an inch long and had strayed from the swamp in my Durham neighborhood, where others of its species normally remain hidden. I brought it back to the swamp edge. Eastern Narrow-mouth Toad, Durham, NC, 10/15/08 Its back covered with clay, it was about 12 mm long, taking leaps much longer than its own length.

True Toads (Family Bufonidae)

American Toads (Bufo Americanus)

American Toad mating pair in clear water, Durham, 3/4/06.  The blue and white beads are apparently eggs. American Toads mating in muddy water, Sandy Creek Park, Durham, NC,  3/22/10 American Toad, Lake Park, Carolina Beach, NC, 9/27/10

Eno River SP, 5/2/03.   Superb camouflage! The three toads to the right were found in the same area. Same day and place.  Pretty good camouflage here. Gray on the left, brown and the right: this toad seems to be having a little trouble sorting it out. Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/23/05.  I have heard that there American Toad-Fowler's Toad hybrids exist; this might be one. Occoneechee Mountain, Orange County, NC, 4/20/04.  This toad showed up in about the same place as a Brown Elfin, a hairstreak butterfly I have a photo of on another page.   Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/11/05.

Fowler's Toads (Bufo fowleri)

Recent Metamorph Fowler's Toads

I saw hundreds of these small toads ( inch long) and tadpoles near a bog in my neighborhood on 5/8/05 and 5/12/05.  About a tenth as many remained on 5/23/05. 

The markings of the below small toads vary enormously, and none have the same markings as the larger Fowler's Toads shown below.   Josh Rose says the ID key is the black border around the dark patches, and says that the toadlets' diets explain the variations in coloring.  

Fowler's Toad with residual tadpole tail, on Eno River bank at West Point on the Eno, Durham, NC, on 7/4/09. Durham, 6/9/05.  This toad is starting to get a stripe down its back, a mark of adulthood. Durham, 6/18/05.  This is the darkest one I've seen, found in a dark wooded area. Durham, 7/6/05.  This one showed up at a shopping center.

 

Durham, 5/12/05.  This toad is lighter-colored than the one at left, but otherwise appears similar. This fourth 5/12/05 toad was darker.  You have a clear view of the toad's foot in this picture, unlike with the others. These toads appeared in mid-May, 2005 near the swamp in my neighborhood.

 

Eno River SP, West Point, 7/7/02. This was a very tiny toad that showed up at the riverside during the Festival for the Eno.

Adult Fowler's Toads

Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 4/18/05. Seems to be the same species as those observed at ERSP. Ocracoke Island, Hyde County, NC, 5/17/05 Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 9/11/04.  No camouflage accomplished here.  This toad may be somewhat undernourished. Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, Orange County, NC, 5/29/05.  Here is a close-up of a Fowler's, warts and all. Fowler's Toad, Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, Orange County, NC, 6/15/06


         
Fowler's Toad.  All but one of the members of this species of toads seen here today had this unusual brown color.  Occoneechee Mountain Natural Area, 6/13/09.          

Tadpoles

There isn't a lot of information on identifying tadpoles, but the  USGS Tadpole Page is a start.

Tadpole with hind legs, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 5/24/07 Tadpole, NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 5/24/06.  This was a relatively large tadpole (over 2 inches long).  May be a Hyla genus tadpole.

Tadpole  with all four legs, Durham, 5/3/05.  I would guess it was a Fowler's Toad. Tadpole, Durham, 6/27/05.  Image enhancement may have altered the color.  Both this tadpole and the one on the right were big enough to make audible splashing sounds and were over an inch long. This Macon County tadpole was already taking a look at life out of the water on 8/17/04.

Tadpole, Durham, 4/15/05.  This large tadpole was surprised by shallow water in a creek.  It did quite a bit of splashing around, eventually making its way to deeper water.  Maybe it was an American Bullfrog; ID based on the USDA Forest Service's American Bullfrog page. Tadpoles, Durham, 4/10/06.  These much smaller tadpoles had visible eyes and spines, i.e., are visibly vertebrates.  They were most likely Fowler's Toads, but possibly American Toads.

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