Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) © Kenny Ruelland.

As a blogger for the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), I am always eager to share my various experiences with amphibians via my writings. I hope that my passion for salamanders and other herptiles will inspire people to get active in terms of contributing to the conservation of amphibians. With that in mind, I have decided to let my friend and colleague Kenny Ruelland act as a guest author today. He too has a great passion for amphibians, and I am sure his enthusiasm will also generate an interest in these amazing animals and a desire to protect them.

By Matt Ellerbeck, SaveTheSalamanders.com

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The Mysterious Autumn Calls of the Spring Peeper

The Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) is a small and common frog species that ranges widely throughout the Eastern U.S and Canada. These frogs usually grow up to about 2.5 cm long. Their “peeper” common name derives from the peeping calls that males make during the Spring breeding season. These peeps are one of – if not the the loudest animal calls in the world, in relation to size. The Spring moniker is in reference to Peepers being one of the first frogs to come out to breed in the early Spring. This is due to their extreme cold tolerance. As a result, the small frog’s powerful call is often a sure sound of the beginning of spring for many people. Especially those that live close to ponds, swamps, or wetlands! But this chirpy little frog’s call can also be heard, mysteriously, in the fall.

It is not yet definitively proven why these frogs begin to call once again in the Autumn. In fact, this matter seems to be relatively data deficient. During an independent study for the Reptile and Amphibian Advocacy (RAAA) project that I am a part of, I could only find data on Fall calling records, which I have also had a chance to collect myself this past November.

On the 17th of the month weather conditions were quite mild. As such, myself and Salamander Conservationist – Matt Ellerbeck headed out to see what amphibians could be encountered. Upon arrival at one of the sites, I was surprised to hear calls of peepers. As we inspected the forested area (the region where these frogs head after spring breeding that occurs in pools and ponds), we again heard peeping, which sure enough turned out to be a small chorus of P. crucifer.

It was baffling to hear them, as breeding definitely takes place in the spring and we were well into the Fall. We finally came across a couple of the noisy frogs in the leaf litter. As I mentioned before, authorities are still figuring out why these frogs begin to call. However, one popular theory, that I have heard from multiple sources is that Autumn calling is connected to the length of daylight. As Fall and Spring have similar photo-periods, this may confuse the frogs into calling. Photo period may also influence the male’s hormones, further encouraging them to call. Others, however, think Autumn peeps are merely young males testing out their calls before freezing up for the winter.

Personally, I agree with the Fall photo-period hypothesis, that can confuse the frogs into calling. I thought I’d write this piece as there seems to be limited information on this phenomenon. A stark reminder that there is much more to learn and understand about amphibians, even the common species like the Spring Peeper.

By Kenny Ruelland
Reptile and Amphibian Advocacy

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