Sunday, July 12, 2020

Tiny Body, Big Voice--And Oh, Those Legs!

If you thought these little guys were loud in the spring, you should hear them now!   Here are Blanchard's Cricket Frogs on the shores of McDowell Creek:



They make a lot of racket for frogs that are no bigger than a quarter:   


Blanchard's Cricket Frog on Algae-covered Rock by McDowell Creek
Their vocalizations are part of what's called a "breeding chorus."

But there is a lot of mystery surrounding breeding choruses.  For one thing, they can occur separate from breeding.   

Sometimes the males just gather and sing, no females allowed.   And the male Blanchard's Cricket Frogs do a "leg display."


But what's the purpose of these all-male displays?  Famed herpetologist Joe Collins wrote that sometimes the frogs gather "for unknown reasons."  So we can observe and speculate.  The little guys don't appear to be defending territories or establishing dominance.   In fact, their interactions are more congenial than aggressive.  They even appear to take turns sitting on top of each other and showing off those gorgeous hind legs.  

If you have any ideas about what the adaptive advantage could be that impelled the evolution of leg-displays, share it with betsy@audubonofkansas.org!

"Breeding" takes place outside the frogs' bodies.   Females deposit eggs underwater, and the males then fertilize the eggs externally.  
All photos and videos were taken at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge, an AOK Legacy Sanctuary in Geary County.  Photos, videos and text by Margy Stewart.   

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