frogfight!

frogfight-introP EOPLE WHO VISIT SAY IT SEEMS LIKE PEACEABLE KINGDOM or at least “Animal Planet” at my place, but I am here to tell you otherwise. There’s a whole lot of fighting going on. Since my big bullfrogs departed for better digs during a heavy rain in early spring, the species called green frogs have been full of themselves, masters of the universe, and now with mating season upon us, they’re downright violent. Ever watch a frogfight? 

Green frogs (Rana clamitans) live an estimated maximum of six years in the wild, reaching sexual maturity in their third year and maximum size at age 4 or 5. In May through August in my climate, females lay 1,000 to 7,000 eggs on the surface of the pools while being held in the romantic frog embrace called amplexus, with the male fertilizing the eggs as he grabs onto her. The males get dressed up in yellow mating-season colors; the female doesn’t don a cute new outfit, so maybe this amplexus thing is all about the guys, who knows?

So in the season of free love, what’s all the fighting about? World domination, apparently, or at least domination of my little world here. In green frog culture, the lead male calls in the females with his booming voice, which many amphibian guides liken to a loose banjo string being plucked.

The so-called satellite male, Number 2 in the frogfight slideshow below, is an opportunist, waiting and hoping that Mr. Big’s voice lures some cute chiquitas who won’t mind a consolation-prize date with frogboy Number 2. (The term “satellite male” conjures that great post-Velvet Underground Lou Reed song, “Satellite of Love,” which is now all I hear in my head besides the incessant banjo-plucking noises out back. Somebody help me!)

So the guys fight, pretty much nonstop; shows occur from lunchtime onward into early evening. I could sell tickets. But you can see for free.

A last detail, though, before the fisticuffs, in case you were wondering what happens to all those eggs: The survivors hatch into tadpoles in three to seven days, but tadpoles don’t begin to metamorphose into full frogs until three to 22 months thereafter…meaning tadpoles may even overwinter. Amazing.

(Click on the first thumbnail to start the show, then toggle from image to image using the arrows beside each caption.)

20 comments
June 25, 2009

comments

  1. Amy says

    What a riot! I suppose one shouldn’t laugh at such earnest young males, but they look positively comical. I’m surprised your presence didn’t deter them. Were you able to photograph from a distance?
    Nice to think of something besides the rain. Although I did discover this morning that an ailing Japanese iris transplant, Iris ensata Gracieuse, is looking healthy and lush and putting out new growth. Perhaps everyone should submit something good about all this water.

  2. Wendy says

    This is too cool!! I love observing the smaller inhabitants of our habitats. Alas, no frogs for me, so this was especially interesting. Thanks for sharing the pics!

  3. says

    Thanks, Margaret, for the slideshow! When you first began tweeting about frog fights, I thought it funny. Now I see just how serious it is (as befits continuation of the species) but it’s still fun. Coming from the city, with mostly squirrel and raccoon wildlife, I loved this insight into your country life and denizens.

  4. says

    Welcome, Amy. They don’t seem to notice me; these were with a medium lens, so I was pretty close to the tussling boys. I am glad your iris (like my frogboys) likes all the wet weather. See you soon!

    Welcome, Betsy. Happy to entertain, or should I say share the entertainment I am treated to nonstop these days in mating season. Hot times!

  5. says

    I certainly hope that the frogs in the Berkshire Museum showing of Frogs: A Chorus of Colors do not attempt any frogfights on museum turf, and especially not in public! Yikes!

    • says

      Welcome, Stuart. Amphibians are always pleading the Fifth and offering every other excuse they can come up with to account for their nonstop bad behavior, in my experience. So I’d be cautious and have the Riot Squad on alert.

  6. chigal says

    Did you see what she did to him, did you hear what they said? [bum bum] Just a New York con-vuh-sation rattling in my head! [bum bum]

  7. Mars says

    Oh nooo it’s sad. I know, I know it’s nature. But I can’t take it. Ring that bell. Time out and all that. ;D

  8. joele cuyler says

    You are an amazing poetic writer! Why are you not writing a book? I will buy it and read it. Velvet Underground . . . Whoa, one of the best bands out there, what did they have to do with nature? . . . you alone found the parallel.

  9. says

    Welcome, Joele. So nice to see you here…and yes, somehow everything is connected once it rolls around in my head awhile. Not sure if that means I am creative or…or…well, you know (maybe a little quirky). See you soon again.

    @Joan (and Mars, too): Nobody dies; it just goes on and on day after day, who knows why. Nobody even gets bloody. A fascinating, ongoing drama, the same two boys, the same outcome daily. Must mean something to them!

  10. Claudia says

    I’m a city girl, so I findthe frogboy antics are amazing, and really fun. Thanks for sharing. Love your entire website.

  11. Melissa J Bond says

    This is an incredible sequence. How long did you wait for them? Do you shoot at regular times to capture their actions? Do you run out when you hear their sounds? What exactly is your “medium” lens? Oh yes, I have many more questions :)

    • says

      Welcome, Melissa; sorry for the delay, but your comment went to spam for a little visit. Oops. With the frogs this time of year, they fight nonstop many days, so not hard to capture. Other things are more fleeting and you catch it or you don’t. I am no pro here, nor patient. :)

      The lens here was just an 18-55, so not even very much oomph at all, but my pools are small and the boys get so into fighting I can reach in and practically pick them up. They don’t see me then.

      When I am inside I can see the pools and the bird feeders and all the places that are the main pathways for animals here, so I am “centrally located.” And when I am outside I am always snooping around for action, but I miss a lot when I leave the camera inside.

  12. Melissa J Bond says

    Thanks for the info, I too use my 18-55 as my main lens on the Nikon. I understand about running out when you hear them. I still have the Blue Heron that visits, and many ducks, and of course the rat with wings (Canadian Geese). I stopped the car last week on the way home from the gardens to try to capture video of a wild turkey followed by 6 baby wild turkeys! I’m finally getting my shooting skills back after a long hiatus, but really need to be shooting every day. It feels good to be creative again. Love those frogs. Not so jazzed about the snakes :)

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