Pseudacris cruciferSpring Peeper

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Geographic Range

Pseudacris crucifer is native to eastern North American. It is found from southeast Manitoba east to the Atlantic Ocean, and south to eastern Texas and mainland Florida (but not on the Florida Peninsula). It is reported to have been introduced to Cuba as well. (Conant and Collins, 1998; Skelly, 1996)

Habitat

This frog is found in marshy woods and non-wooded lowlands near ponds and swamps. Although it is a good climber, spring peepers seem to prefer to be on the ground or hiding in leaf litter. Spring peepers breed in freshwater ponds or pools, and prefer to use ponds where there are no fish. They often use temporary ponds that dry up after the larvae (tadpoles) have transformed into adult frogs and left the water.

One study found that during a drought in Arkansas, spring peepers were one of the most commonly discovered anuran in caves. The authors suggest this species used these caves in late summer (late July/early August) because the relative humidity in the caves was high (avg = 79%). (Blair and Wassersug, 2000; Prather and Briggler, 2001)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • temporary pools

Physical Description

The average spring peeper varies in size from 20 - 25 mm at maturity. This frog is usually some shade of brown, gray, or olive, and occasionally may be yellow or reddish. Its belly is cream or white, and it is marked by a dark cross on its back and dark bands on its legs. Pseudacris crucifer has moderately webbed feet and noticeable disks on its fingers and toes. (Hinshaw and Sullivan, 1990)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    3 to 5 g
    0.11 to 0.18 oz
  • Range length
    20 to 25 mm
    0.79 to 0.98 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.00105 W
    AnAge

Development

Eggs are generally laid in temporary ponds. Embryos and larvae may die when the pH of the habitat ranges from 4.2 to 4.5. The larval stage can last from 45 to 90 days, and is partially dependent on the availability of water in vernal pools. Compared to a related species, Pseudacris triseriata, the spring peeper has a longer development time (a prolonged larval period), in which metamorphosis is delayed. (Blair and Wassersug, 2000; Smith and VanBurskirk, 1995; Zampella and Bunnell, 2000)

Reproduction

Males begin mating rituals shortly after the end of hibernation. The males will gather at small pools by the hundreds. Each male establishes a small territory and begins calling quite frequently. This call is described as a shrill "peep peep peep." The louder and faster he peeps, the better his chances of attracting a receptive female. Males usually compete in trios, and the male with the lowest-pitched call usually starts the vocal competition. (Woodward and Mitchell, 1990)

The spring peeper is usually about three years old before it reaches the breeding stage. The species is one of the first anurans to begin breeding after winter hibernation. The breeding period lasts from March - June, when 800 - 1000 eggs per female are laid in shallow ponds. The eggs hatch within 6 to 12 days, and tadpoles transform to adults during July (range 45 - 90 days).

Female spring peepers typically choose mates in a size-selective fashion -- larger males are preferred and are more successful breeders. (Blaustein, et al., 2001; Lance and Wells, 1993)

  • Breeding interval
    Once yearly
  • Breeding season
    April and May
  • Average number of offspring
    900
  • Range time to hatching
    6 to 12 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 to 3 years

Females lay eggs that they supply with nourishing yolk, but once they lay their eggs their investment is done. Males provide no parental care or investment, just fertilization. (Skelly, 1996)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The longest known lifespan in wild is unknown. In captivity, peepers will live to 3 - 4 years. (Blaustein, et al., 2001)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 4 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 4 years

Behavior

Spring peepers are known for their high piping whistle consisting of a single clear note repeated on intervals. The males sing, normally doing so in trios, the one who starts each round is usually the deepest voiced. During the daytime, peepers often call during light rains or in cloudy weather. They are usually silent at the end of summer, but call from forests during the fall.

This species hibernates under logs and in treeholes. (Tyler, 1994)

  • Range territory size
    1.2 to 5.5 m^2

Home Range

During breeding season, home range diameters range from 1.2 - 5.5 m (4 - 18 ft.), and the peeper's average daily travel ranges from 6.1 - 39.6 m (20 - 130 ft.). They tend to be found in natural ponds and bogs. (Zampella and Bunnell, 2000)

Communication and Perception

Mating calls are heard during early April - May, and greatest during warm, wet nights. They start calling when the ambient temperature is 28C. Calls (peeps) often end with a high pitched slur, and is repeated about 20 times/minute. (Blaustein, et al., 2001; Hinshaw and Sullivan, 1990)

Food Habits

Pseudacris crucifer is insectivorous, eating mainly small insects including ants, beetles, flies, and spiders. It is believed that food is chosen more by availability and size than by actual preference.

Subadult peepers are know to feed most often in the early morning hours and in the late afternoon, while adults more often fed in the late afternoon into the early evening hours.

Larvae graze on algae, detritus, and micro-organisms. (Buell and Marshall, 1955; Oplinger, 1967)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • algae

Predation

Many predators attack adult peepers, including salamanders, owls, large spiders, snakes, and other birds.

Predaceous aquatic invertabrates in vernal pools prey upon the spring peeper tadpole. The invertebrates include the predaceous diving beetle (Family Dytiscidae), leeches (Hirundinea), dragonfly larvae (Odonata) and giant water bugs ( Belastoma spp.). In response to the presence of predators, peepers in larval stage travel short distances in a darting fashion, then remains completely inactive for long bouts of time.

There has been a wealth of work examining tadpole phenotypic plasticity in common frogs like the spring peeper. With their short bodies and deep tails, peepers tend to sacrifice part of their tails during tadpole development. One study found that 62.7% of peeper individuals lost part of their tails during Gosner developmental stages 26-34. The proportion of the tail that was damaged was 8.5%. In later Gosner stages (35 - 43), only 34% of peepers exhibited tail damage, suggesting either that individuals can rehabilitate tails or that injured individuals do not survive to the next stage. However, spring peepers are one of the few species in this study that could tolerate tail loss exceeding 25% (sometimes >50%). (Blair and Wassersug, 2000; Hinshaw and Sullivan, 1990)

Ecosystem Roles

The spring peepers' role (as adults) is to feed on insects, which put it in competition with other amphibians as well as different spider species that feed on insects as well. Vernal pond predators such as leeches, large insects, and salamander larvae may depend on the spring peeper as a source of food.

Spring peepers are hosts to parasites, including a protozoan species called Opalina obtrigonoidea. (Blair and Wassersug, 2000; Delvinquier and Desser, 1996)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Opalina obtrigonoidea (a parasitic protozoan)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Spring peepers may help to control certain insect populations. (Blair and Wassersug, 2000)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Pseudacris crucifer on humans.

Conservation Status

This is a relatively common anuran within its range, but some states on the on the edge of its range give it special protection. It is listed as "Protected" in New Jersey and "Threatened" in Kansas. (Levell, 1997)

Other Comments

A recent study examined the effects of climate change on anurans. In the case of the spring peeper, over the last 30 years, overall start of breeding was not significantly earlier. However, the authors did find a positive relationship between temperature and breeding date.

Pseudacris crucifer was formerly known as Pseudacris crucifer, and is referenced as such in older book and article citations. (Blaustein, et al., 2001)

Contributors

Jennifer Largett (author), Radford University, Monica Mingo (author), Radford University, Jon Hirst (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor, instructor), Radford University.

Sarah Gordon (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

choruses

to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species

detritus

particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).

duets

to jointly display, usually with sounds in a highly coordinated fashion, at the same time as one other individual of the same species, often a mate

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

freshwater

mainly lives in water that is not salty.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

saltatorial

specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

DeGraaf, Richard M. and Deborah D. Rudis. Amphibians and Reptiles of New England. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst. 1983

Frazier, J. F. D. Amphibians. Wykeham Publications Ltd., London. 1973

Froom, Barbara. Amphibians of Canada. McClelland and Stewart Limited, Toronto. 1982

Blair, J., R. Wassersug. 2000. Variation in the pattern of predator-induced damage to tadpole tails. Copeia, 2000: 390-401. Accessed October 15, 2007 at http://www.jstor.org/view/00458511/ap050459/05a00060/0.

Blaustein, A., L. Belden, D. Olson, D. Green, T. Root, J. Kiesecker. 2001. Amphibian breeding and climate change. Conservation Biology, 15/6: 1804-1809.

Buell, M., W. Marshall. 1955. A study of the occurence of amphibians in relation to bog sucession, Itasca State Park, Minnesota. Ecology, 3: 381-387.

Conant, R., J. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Delvinquier, B., S. Desser. 1996. Opalinidae (Sarcomastigophora) in North American Amphibia: genus Opalina Purkinje and Valentin, 1835. Systematic Parasitology, 33 (1): 33-51.

Hinshaw, S., B. Sullivan. 1990. Predation on Hyla versicolor and Pseudacris crucifer during reproduction. Journal of Herpetology, 24: 196-197. Accessed October 15, 2007 at http://www.jstor.org/view/00221511/ap050082/05a00130/0.

Lance, S., K. Wells. 1993. Are Spring Peeper satellite males physiologically inferior to calling males?. Copeia, 1993/4: 1162-1166.

Levell, J. 1997. A Field Guide to Reptiles and the Law. 2nd ed.. Lanesboro, Minnesota: Serpent's Tale.

Oplinger, C. 1967. Food habits and feeding activity of recently transformed and adult Hyla crucifer crucifer Weid.. Herpetologica, 23: 209-217.

Prather, J., J. Briggler. 2001. Use of small caves by anurans during a drought period in the Arkansas Ozarks. Journal of Herpetology, 35 (4): 675-678.

Skelly, D. 1996. Pond Drying, Predators, and the Distribution of Pseudacris Tadpoles. Copeia, 1996(3): 599-605. Accessed August 24, 2007 at http://www.jstor.org/view/00458511/ap050444/05a00100/0.

Smith, D., J. VanBurskirk. 1995. Phenotypic design, plasticity, and ecological performance in two tadpole species. American Naturalist, 145(2): 211-233.

Tyler, M. 1994. Stalking Amphibians. Maine Naturalist, 2: 33-44.

Woodward, B., S. Mitchell. 1990. Predation on frogs in breeding choruses. The Southwestern Naturalist, 35: 449-450.

Zampella, R., J. Bunnell. 2000. The distribution of anurans in two river systems of a Coastal Plain watershed. Journal of Herpetology, 34: 210-221. Accessed September 05, 2007 at http://www.jstor.org/view/00221511/ap050122/05a00080/0.