farewell, my princes: the big frogboy exodus
M Y FIVE BIGGEST HUNKS O’ BURNING BULLFROG have up and gone, the oldest boys out back who I was certain were Prime Prince Material. Sigh. Left me flat, during or just after a dramatic 2.75-inch rainfall recently, without so much as a farewell ribbit. And look at the mere pipsqueaks who have got hold of the larger pool since, which they’d never dare have gone near if the omnivore Big Boys were still around (and that’s a froggirl up top; not big and not even a boy!). What’s up with my frogs? Was it something I said?
I think I know what’s up, sort of: A frog expert I emailed with last week after my tragic loss confirms that she has seen large movements after rains like I described, perhaps a hunting expedition (meaning they will be back, to breed, shortly) or maybe the move was to find new breeding grounds (a sayonara of the more permanent type).
Bullfrogs (about 3 1/2 to 6 inches in body length) are true aquatic animals, meaning they need a watery environment, period, unlike the Green Frogs (2 to 3 1/2 inches) I am left with (including the sexed-up adult male, above, whose intentions and gender I discern from his yellow throat coloration and the raucous behavior he’s been exhibiting lately). I think he has (bug) eyes for the lady up top. Green Frogs can deal with a terrestrial environment, at least part of the time; bulls cannot…except in big rains, when the opportunity to move presents itself. So off they went, in search of greener pastures, I suppose, perhaps singin’ in the rain.
When it’s wet out, the normally aquatic Bullfrogs can move much longer distances: “They have been anecdotally recorded to move about 1.5 km or more, astonishing as that may sound,” says Megan Gahl, an environmental scientist and co-author of a recent study at the University of Maine on Bullfrogs’ use of seasonal pools, published in the journal “Wetlands.”
Once breeding gets under way, they are less likely to move this way, she says. Hurry back, boys, or it’s over between us. Eek; unimaginable. But seriously, how can you leave me with little guys like that young green, above? He’s cute, I guess, but really! Not my type.
More amazing details to share in the wake of this separation-anxiety event: You can also tell boys from girls in bulls and even greens by the size of their, er, tympanum. No, that’s not something dirty: It’s their eardrum. Girls have tympanum equal to or smaller than their eye size, the boys’ are bigger. And then there’s this magic story:
A few days after the bulls left, the medium-sized frogs (greens and leopards), who as I say would never have dared go near the biggest of my three water features just 30 feet away for fear of being eaten, all hopped across the lawn together in an amphibian moving-up ceremony, as if on cue. The biggest pool is now theirs. The medium-sized pool they used to use: Now my smallest frogs, one-year greens and the occasional Leopard Frog and so forth, have all shacked up there.
In the smallest water gardens, nobody now lives. Since the Big Guys are gone, we only have two castes in the system here now, small and medium. Amazing, huh? Talk about adaptation to changes in environment. Talk about opportunism.
So I ask you: What odds do you give me for getting my beloved biggest frogboys back, some of them individuals I have known for three or four or maybe five years each, and could actually tell apart? Don’t believe me? Bullfrogs live an average of seven to nine years in the wild (up to 16 in captivity, says Animal Diversity Web, my favorite reading matter on such topics), and don’t even reach sexual maturity until age 3 to 5 years. And you know my guys were sexy beasts, don’t you recall? I mean, look at them: