Have you met Hyla chrysocelis, Cope’s gray tree frog? I met this little one perched on my front door yesterday, where it had climbed with it’s sticky toe pads. It stayed all day, quietly enduring our in and out traffic. Another amazing urban-tolerant species, Cope’s can breed in swimming pool covers and backyard ponds. It descends from it’s arboreal habitat to breed, and we can hear it’s mating trill at this time of year. The sound is a bit like a “raspberry”, or Bronx cheer.
This was not my first up-close encounter with H. chrysocelis – in springtime it can be observed (and heard!) at night in the water feature pond at the LNC. And two summers ago when the pump broke, hundreds of tiny tadpoles hatched in the warm, still water. You can make breeding habitat in your yard just by keeping a good-sized container of shallow water out, (using mosquito dunks to prevent another type of breeding).
But the most remarkable encounter occurred a few months ago in our forest, when I accidentally dug up (blog readers – sense a pattern?) a Gray tree frog in hibernation. Thankfully I saw the little creature and didn’t hurt it with the shovel. The frog couldn’t move at first and I was able to pick it up, guiltily, just to verify what I’d found.
In my hand, I could see the bright yellow on the inside of its back legs, a positive ID for both Hyla chrysocelis and Hyla versicolor. Both species of Gray tree frog occur across much of the eastern US – but in KY, Cope’s gray tree frog, H. chrysocelis is much more common and found in most counties.
It leads one to wonder if they can hybridize, and according to the Ky Dept of Fish and Wildlife website, they can. Leading one to wonder how and why they diverged from a common ancestor, and whether they could become one species again. For a very scholarly, but very interesting research article on this topic, google this:
“Polyploid Hybrids: Multiple Origins of a Tree Frog Species”
And watch for frogs on the door!
(Also watch for my upcoming blogpost “Trashed – Strange Beauty along the South Fork”)