Northern cricket frogs (Acris crepitans) are native to the Nearctic region. Northern cricket frogs have a vast habitat range; they are found in the northernmost regions of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas in Mexico and extend northward into the southernmost region of Ontario, Canada. In the continental United States, northern cricket frogs can be found as far west as Texas and as far east as Virginia. This includes the westernmost parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Northern cricket frogs can be found along the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana and parts of the coastal northeast, from Maryland to Maine. However, they do not inhabit coastal areas of the Southeast from Virginia to Florida. (Campbell and Oldham, 2001; Hamerson, et al., 2014; Nevo, 1972; Nevo, 1973)
Northern cricket frogs are widespread and can survive under many environmental conditions. They can live in arid regions, forests, and grasslands. However, the most suitable habitat for northern cricket frogs is in the southeastern United States. They typically live near permanent bodies of water, such as established ponds and lakes.
Northern cricket frog tadpoles prefer to live in shallow water, but water temperature does not seem to affect northern cricket frog tadpoles like it does other species of frogs.
Starting in September, northern cricket frogs migrate to covered microhabitats, where they create a burrow. Burrowing during winter months ensures that northern cricket frogs remain moist and do not get too cold. The areas where northern cricket frogs burrow are usually terrestrial and can be up to 400 m away from the closest body of water. (Johnson, 1991; Nevo, 1973)
Northern cricket frogs increase in size as their habitat becomes increasingly dry. The humidity of a given environment affects their size more so than temperature. Northern cricket frogs found in the eastern part of their range are smaller (22 to 26 mm) than cricket frogs found in the western portion of their range (24 to 29mm). Cricket frogs are polymorphic. They are known to have green, red, or grey dorsal stripes. However, northern cricket frog individuals with green dorsal stripes are more common than individuals with red or grey stripes. The variability in dorsal stripes between individuals is likely due to alleles coding for green and red being dominant over grey. Dorsal stripes also vary in brightness and hue. Dorsal stripes do not occur until northern cricket frogs begin going through metamorphosis. Dorsal stripes are not present on tadpoles, but they are visible on young froglets and adults. (Gray, 1983; Nevo, 1972; Nevo, 1973)
Northern cricket frogs develop from egg to tadpole in 29 to 90 days, starting in late July to August. Tadpoles develop into adults after 35 to 70 days. An unusual polymorphism occurs in northern cricket frog tadpoles that co-occur with dragonfly larvae; in this situation, tadpoles possess black tails. Tadpoles going through metamorphosis are more likely to have plain tails in the absence of dragonfly larvae or in the presence of known predators; this may be a polymorphic defense mechanism against predation. Juvenile northern cricket frogs reach sexual maturity once they are about 38 mm in length. This period of growth occurs over a few months, since cricket frogs grow 12 to 28 mm in a 2 to 3 month time span. (Gray, 1983; Johnson, 1991; Lannoo, 2005)
Northern cricket frogs breed in bodies water. Typical breeding habitat consists of river backwaters and semi-permanent or permanent wetlands. Males use vocal calls to attract mates. Females choose males based on call characteristics, including the number of pulses in a call, the dominant frequency of a call, and the number of pulse groups in a call. Females can distinguish males from their home population and neighboring populations based on calls of individual males. Females are more likely to select males from their home population than neighboring populations.
Location and temperature dictates the start of the breeding season for northern cricket frogs. In Illinois, males arrive at breeding sites before females and start breeding calls between late April and early May. They continue calling through July. In Iowa, males are heard from mid-May through July. In the south, (e.g., Texas, Louisiana) breeding takes place year-round. (Day, 2000; Lannoo, 2005)
Northern cricket frogs employ external fertilization, wherein females lay their eggs before males fertilize them. Eggs may float on the surface of the water, attach to underwater stems of aquatic plants, or even sink to the bottom of the body of water. Females lay up to 400 eggs at once, but do not lay all their eggs in one place. They are either laid individually or in clusters of up to 7 eggs. Northern cricket frog eggs are, on average, 1.13 mm in diameter. Time to hatching is 50 to 90 days, and hatchlings are immediately independent. (Day, 2000; Lannoo, 2005; Perrill and Magier, 1988)
In northern cricket frogs, females and males exhibit no parental investment beyond the acts of egg-laying and fertilization, respectively. (Lannoo, 2005)
Northern cricket frogs usually live from 4 to 12 months, including the start of metamorphosis. Frogs generally go through metamorphosis in late summer, around July, and die in the same month of the following year, provided they survive the winter. Due to their short lifespans, it is expected that populations of northern cricket frogs are replaced by a new generation every 16 months. A study in 1983 observed northern cricket frogs surviving up to two winters, although this is unusual. The longest surviving northern cricket frog was 3 years old. These frogs are not kept in captivity, and thus there is no information on their lifespan in captive environments. (Gray, 1983; Lannoo, 2005)
The behavior of northern cricket frogs has been studied mostly during their breeding season. The proximity of two vocalizing males has an influence on their calling behavior. This is especially true if two neighboring frogs are aggressive towards each other. If two males are showing aggression towards each other, they produce a hormone called arginine vasotoxin, which affects the middle and end of the calls of aggressive males.
In times of drought, northern cricket frogs may inhabit deep cracks of dried-out pond beds to avoid dry conditions. After heavy rains, northern cricket frogs disperse from their current habitat, moving between local populations.
In northern states, cold weather forces northern cricket frogs undergo brumation. Northern cricket frogs brumate in crevices or cracks in the banks of ponds, under fallen logs, and underneath other types of vegetation. If temperatures rise during the winter, northern cricket frogs may come out of brumation early and become active on ponds that have iced over. (Lannoo, 2005)
The home ranges of northern cricket frogs are not well studied. The territories of northern cricket frogs are also unknown, but are also unlikely to exist. Although northern cricket frogs are not known to be territorial, they do they stay in close proximity to wetlands, and may move among closely-associated systems of wetlands. (Lannoo, 2005)
Northern cricket frogs communicate with one another through a series of short, clicking sounds. These clicks are repeated rapidly in small bouts, otherwise known as calls. These individual calls make up pulse groups. Male frogs are able to lower the dominant frequency of their calls to assert dominance and potentially displace other male frogs. Females also listen to variation in male calls to determine if a male is a suitable mate. Female cricket frogs are more attracted to short calls compared to long calls. Females are more likely to mate with males from their own population rather than males from neighboring populations. Females also use call variation to identify which males belong to a particular population. This is determined by three call characteristics: dominant frequency, call duration, and the number of pulses in a call. On average, male calls have a dominant frequency of about 2.7 to 4.0 kHz. Dominant frequencies on the upper end of this spectrum, around 3.5 kHz, are observed in parts of Texas and range as far north as Indiana.
Habitat acoustics and environmental selection are currently presumed to account for the main differences in northern cricket frog calls. Populations in the western part of their range have calls with lower characteristic frequencies and longer durations. Northern cricket frog populations in the eastern parts of their range have higher characteristic frequencies and shorter durations. Populations of northern cricket frogs in forested areas have calls that are high pitched and seem to rattle, which differs from the lower-pitched calls of northern cricket frogs in open habitats. (Ryan and Wilczynski, 1991; Ryan, et al., 1992)
Northern cricket frogs primarily eat insects, but also some spiders. The types of insects they eat come from a variety of taxa, including the orders Coleoptera, Collembola, Diptera, Hemiptera, Homoptera, Hymenoptera, Odonata, Orthoptera, Protura, and Thysanura. Cricket frogs are opportunistic eaters, meaning they eat whatever they can catch, but they more commonly consume terrestrial insects. Cricket frogs feed about three times a day, consuming over 20 insects daily. Individual cricket frogs eat an average of 4,800 arthropods per year; hence, small pond populations of around 1,000 individuals are estimated to consume around 4.8 million arthropods a year.
Northern cricket frog tadpoles are likely generalist feeders and consume their food by filter feeding. They primarily eat algae that is motile and filamentous such as Ankistrodesmus and Cosmarium. (Johnson, 1991; Johnson and Christiansen, 1976)
The most common predators of northern cricket frogs are other frog species such as American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus), fish such as black basses (genus Micropterus), and snakes such as northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon), Concho water snakes (Nerodia paucimaculata), eastern garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis), and plains garter snakes (Thamnophis radix). Other predators include birds such as great-tailed grackles (Cassidix mexicanus) and American kestrels (Falco sparverius). Predation is most common during dry spells, when water levels are lowest and the banks of ponds or streams are bare, making cricket frogs easy targets. To avoid predation, northern cricket frogs can leap over 1 m horizontally. They also have cryptic coloration that helps them camouflage in their environment. (Ade, et al., 2010; Lannoo, 2005)
Northern cricket frogs serve as hosts for parasites, but compared to other amphibians they have a lower prevalence of infection. Northern cricket frogs have been known to be infected by the trematode Glypthelmins quieta, which lives in the intestines of its host.
Northern cricket frogs are able to consume around 20 arthropods in one day and an estimated 4,800 arthropods in a single year. This is potentially a natural form of pest control that can benefit people, although no studies have documented cases in which it has a significant economic impact. (Johnson and Christiansen, 1976)
Northern cricket frogs have no known negative economic impacts on humans.
The IUCN Red List categorizes northern cricket frogs as a species of “Least Concern.” However, northern cricket frogs are threatened in parts of their geographic range, namely the northwestern portion. The IUCN Red List states that this could be due to climate change, predation, or competition with other species, but the specific causes of these declines are understudied. Currently, the leading cause of global amphibian decline is climate change.
The decline of northern cricket frogs in the northwestern areas of their range was first observed in the 1960s and is still continuing today. Northern cricket frog populations in Canada are decreasing, and Canada has listed northern cricket frogs as an endangered species. There have been population declines of northern cricket frogs in the United States as well. In Virginia, declines in the Shenandoah Valley decline are likely due to animal grazing and agricultural land use. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, northern cricket frogs are considered state endangered. They are considered state threatened in New York and are listed as a species of special concern in Indiana, Michigan and West Virginia. Northern cricket frogs are not listed on the State of Michigan List.
Because northern cricket frogs have such an expansive range, parts of their range overlap with areas that are already protected for other endangered species. (Hammerson, et al., 2004; Micancin, et al., 2012)
Katie Suter (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Emily Clark (editor), Radford University, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Genevieve Barnett (editor), Colorado State University, Galen Burrell (editor), Special Projects.
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.
uses sound to communicate
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.
an animal that mainly eats meat
to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
fertilization takes place outside the female's body
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
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.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
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).
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.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.
specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
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).
Living on the ground.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
breeding takes place throughout the year
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