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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California







Frog and Toad Behavior and Life History -
Movement, Camouflage, and Clustering

 









observation link

 

Frog and Toad Movement

While frogs often use the strength of their muscular hind legs to hop long distances, toads generally move by crawling and using short hops. Take a look at the feeding videos above to see frogs and toads lunging and leaping after food.

southern mountain yellow-legged frogs california toad black toad
This video shows some Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs in a quiet mountain creek hopping, swimming, and creeping up and lunging after food. This video shows a California Toad moving both by crawling and by hopping. This video shows several Black Toads moving around at night in shallow water, hunting for food.
amargosa toads cascades frogs american bullfrogs
This video shows several Amargosa Toads hopping, swimming, and crawling around at night. This video shows several Cascades Frogs along a creek, some of them hopping and swimming. This video shows a few American Bullfrogs including some hopping, diving, and swimming.
california toad california toad california toad
Toads are surprisingly good climbers. This California Toad was photographed climbing the steep walls of a canyon
in San Bernardino County to get to a burrow, which you can see in the third picture. © Jeff Ahrens

  tadpoles  
  This video shows tiny Red-spotted Toads that have just transformed from tadpoles, hoping across an algae mat on a pond.
 
   
Camouflage and Defense
     
canyon treefrog canyon treefrog canyon treefrog
Canyon Treefrogs are colored and patterned to match the rocks along the creeks where they live. They also hunch themselves over, hiding their legs, so they look like little clumps of rock. This camouflage helps them hide from predators. Canyon Treefrogs, barely visable at a distance on a large boulder.

This video shows a few Canyon Treefrogs on rocks along a creek.

canyon treefrog canyon treefrog Sierran Treefrog
Several adult California Treefrogs blend in perfectly with the creek-side granite rocks they sit on. © Mark Gary Adult Sierran Treefrog. The color and pattern of some treefrogs helps them to blend into their surroundings to avoid detection.
     
Other Defense Strategies
rio grande leopard frog rio grande leopard frog california toad
This frightened Rio Grande Leopard Frog pulled its front hands in front of its eyes, maybe to protect them from attack. This California Toad shows white milky secretions from the parotoid glands which contain noxious chemicals that help to deter some predators.
© Dominic Poole
Flash Color on legs used to distract predators.
When a frog fears an attack from a predator, it jumps away, stretching the legs out and exposing the bright flash color. The predator automatically focuses on the bright color when it pursues the frog, but the color suddenly disappears when the frog lands and folds up its legs. This can confuse the predator long enough to allow the frog to escape.
Sierran Treefrog Gray Treefrog Australian Frog
Adult male Sierran Treefrog showing yellow "flash color" markings on the inner thighs.   Another example of flash color on the thighs of a Gray Treefrog. Flash mark on inside of rear leg of an Australian frog, an Emerald-spotted Tree Frog.
Australian Frog    
Flash markings on a Northern Laughing Tree Frog from Australia    
 
Clustering and other social Interactions

Sometimes frogs congregate into groups. One study tested whether some juvenile toads gathered together for protection or to keep from getting too dry, or desiccating, and concluded that the clustering reduced desiccation.

chiricahua leopard frogs chiricahua leopard frogs chiricahua leopard frogs
Chiricahua Leopard Frogs
These frogs gradually gathered into small and large groups at the
edge of a pond, even climbing up onto the backs of other frogs.
Chiricahua Leopard Frogs
This video shows frogs diving into the water, and later a number of frog clusters.
bullfrogs sierra nevada yl frogs  
In this short video, American Bullfrogs sitting around a crowded pond group together and interact with each other, making what appear to be territorial sounds. A congregation of Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frogs. These frogs were discovered on the south-facing slope of a barely ice-free alpine lake (11,000 ft.). They are covered with pollen, wind-blown from lower altitudes, which coated the area. © Ceal Klingler






 

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