Pseudacris regillaNorthern Pacific Treefrog(Also: Pacific Treefrog)

Last updated:

Geographic Range

Pseudacris regilla are found in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. This range extends from California to British Columbia, and from the Pacific coast east to Montana and Nevada (Hill, 2000). They are found from sea level to about 11,600-ft (Wright, 1995).

Habitat

They are a very adaptable species. Contrary to their title, they usually live on the ground. They are found near springs, ponds, streams, swamps, and other moist places. They will live in damp recesses among rocks and logs and in dense vegetation. (Wright, 1995)

Physical Description

Tadpoles are about 1 cm long when they hatch, and they are grayish green in color. As adults, Pseudacris regilla grows from 1-1 7/8 inches long (Wright, 1995). Females tend to be slightly larger than males. They have sticky, circular disks on the ends of their toes that are used for climbing. They have a light underside and there are dark spots on their back and legs. There are black stripes, which start at the shoulder and go through the eyes. There is also a Y-shaped mark on the top of their head, between the eyes. Coloration varies between individuals, and also within an individual, ranging from lime green to brown. An individual can change shades depending on moisture and temperature. This is different from some lizards that can change color to match their background. (Hill, 2000)

Development

Reproduction

Young Pseudacris regilla are sexually mature at about one year of age (Krahling, 2000). Breeding occurs from the beginning of January to mid-May (Wright, 1995). Males attract females up to a mile or more away with their two toned mating call. Once females find a male, the two find a temporary pond where they can breed. Eggs are fertilized externally. The male puts his feet on the hips of the female, brings his cloacal aperture close to hers, and releases a cloud of sperm as the female releases her eggs. The female lays an egg mass containing 10-70 eggs (Wright, 1995). This egg mass is laid in the temporary pond where it floats, attached to pond vegetation, for about three to four weeks before hatching. It takes longer for the eggs to hatch the colder the water is. Predators do not usually live around temporary ponds, so this evolutionary method reduces the loss of tadpoles to predators (Hill, 2000). There is no parental care involved. The parents both leave the eggs after they have been laid and fertilized.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Behavior

Pseudacris regilla are solitary animals, but they sometimes congregate in large colonies during the breeding season. They are nocturnal and are also very territorial. At night, males repeat their dual-toned mating call to ward off other males from their part of the pond. This croaking is a kreck-ek in rapid sequence. It is surprisingly loud for the size of the animal (Wright, 1995). Pseudacris regilla also have the unique ability to change color. While this helps in camouflaging from predators, they cannot change willingly to match its background. Instead the change has to do with temperature and moisture. Predators include herons, bullfrogs, raccoons, and mink (Hill, 2000).

Food Habits

As tadpoles, Pseudacris regilla feed on plant material. When they transform into adults, their feeding habits change from plants to insects (tiny gnats, flies, and mosquitoes) (Krahling, 2000). They capture prey by flicking out the tongue, sticking it to an insect, and then bringing it back to the mouth. The tongue is specialized for this because it is coated with a sticky secretion, is relatively long, and is very quick. This procedure is a response to movement, which they detect with sight, smell, and hearing. The problem with this mode of feeding is that they pick up dirt and other debris with the prey, which cannot be sorted out, because they swallow their prey whole. They don't chew or break down their food (Tyler, 1976).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

They are important to scientists because they are considered an "indicator" species. Since they are so sensitive to environmental change and water quality, they give us clues to the cleanliness and health of the ecosystem. The sticky quality of their toes has also caught our interest. In Scotland, researchers are studying the adhesive features of the toes to come up with new technology in the tires of cars (Krahling, 2000). People also keep them as pets, but they are protected by law and require a permit to keep and transport them (Hill, 2000).

Conservation Status

In the Pacific Northwest, Pseudacris regilla are the most abundant amphibian species. Amphibians as a whole are very sensitive to environmental changes. Their numbers are declining world wide mainly as a result of poor water quality, which scientists attribute to rising amounts of acid rain (Krahling, 2000).

Other Comments

These frogs were of cultural significance to Native Americans. It is the belief of native Americans that an individual tree frog co-exists for every person. As a result of this belief, they showed great respect towards these animals.

Contributors

Pat Owen (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Glossary

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.

ectothermic

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

forest

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

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.

References

Hill, D. "The Pacific Tree Frog" (On-line). Accessed March 14, 2000 at http://www.naturepark.com/treefrog.htm.

Krahling, C. "The Tree Frog" (On-line). Accessed March 19, 2000 at http://www.geocities.com/Nashville/Stage/7000/Treefrog.html.

Tyler, M. 1976. Frogs. Sydney and London: Collins.

Wright, A., A. Wright. 1995. Handbook of Frogs and Toads. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates.