Science in the Parks

05 Jul
wood frog

The frog pictured here is the wood frog (Rana sylvatica). See below for details.

Science in the Parks officially starts Wednesday July 10th at Conte Community School. We will meet after the free lunch. Wear old shoes or rain boots, you will want to get wet.

The schedule for this month is:

July 10, 11 and 12 at Conte Community School

July 13 informal gathering at Clapp Park

July 29th at Pitt Park Gathering

July 24, 25, and 26 at Conte Community School

Unofficially a group of us will be meeting at Clapp Park at 10am this Saturday July 6th to scout out the area and talk about water and nature topics. I will be bringing some frogs, a tadpole and friends.Hope to see you there!!

wood frog eggsThe wood frog, Rana sylvatica, is found in many places in the Berkshires, they like deciduous or coniferous as well as mixed forests, marshes, meadows, and swamps. This frog here was collected at the pond at the Pittsfield State forest.

Wood frogs spends most of their time out of the water except for during mating season, then they gather in shallow pools, vernal ponds and marsh waters.

These frogs are the first to start calling in the spring, even before the spring peepers. The male wood frogs make a quacking call and then go out in search of a the females.

Female lays an eggs in huge masses of as many as 1,000 eggs attaching them to a stick or stump in the water. It takes about a week, but the egg mass starts to float. When it reaches the top of the water you can see it like jelly mass. Here it heats up and attracts algae that turns it green, camouflaging the eggs to look like pond scum protecting baby tadpoles inside from predators and too much sunlight. There is lots of pond scum in the pond at the state forest so it is hard to spot these eggs. Once the tadpoles emerge they spend about two months in the water eating algae and plant matter then emerge as tiny frogs about 3 cm long. They spend the next two years on the forest floor growing larger, eating insects, centipedes, millipedes, slugs and small invertebrates in the leaf litter. Once they reach full size of about 6 cm at about two years old, they can return to the pond and start mating.

two wood frogsOne amazing things wood frogs do that baffles scientists is they freeze over the winter. Their hearts stop and 65% of the water in their bodies freeze. Then they thaw out in the spring. Cool. I know some insects that can do that too. Do you?

One thing that is important to remember when catching frogs is they are amphibians, that means they live part of their life in the water and part on land and go through some type of metamorphosis (change) in their bodies. The second thing to remember is amphibians use their skin as a secondary respiratory surface–that means they breathe through their skin. If you touch a frog, newt, or salamander skin with your hands, you keep them from breathing. If you have bug spray or sun screen on your hands this will get on them and cause poisoning, and it will get into their respiratory system and keep them from breathing. So as a rule you should avoid touching them with your hands. I use a soft net to catch them and transfer them into a bucket or critter keeper.

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Posted by on July 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


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