The gray tree frog is an arboreal frog species. It is also known as eastern gray tree frog, tetraploid gray treefrog, or common gray tree frog. The Europeans, sometimes call it North American tree frog to make a distinction from the European tree frog (Hyla arborea).
Species: H. versicolor
The scientific name for the gray tree frog is Hyla versicolor.
The gray tree frogs are comparatively smaller than other frog species found in North America. Adult specimens can be 3.5 to 5.2 centimeters in length. Females tend to be a little larger than males.
The gray tree frogs have the ability to camouflage themselves in various colors from green to gray. They can be almost white to almost black. Their skin color changes at a very slow rate (compared to a chameleon). Their skin has an uneven texture, giving them a wart-like appearance. They have small patches on the upper part of their bodies. However, mottling varies in different individuals. The color of the underpart of their body is light yellowish or cream. The throats of the males are gray or black, while females’ throat color is a bit lighter. They have bright-yellowish spots on their hind legs that are visible when the frog is jumping. They have large sticky toe pads.
The gray tree frogs are most common in forested areas and moist woods that are in close proximity to freshwater puddles, ponds, swamps, marshes and bogs.The scattered population also inhabits suburban areas and farmlands. During gray tree frog hibernation, they stay underneath logs, leaves, tree bark, or tree holes.
The scattered population also inhabit suburban areas and farmlands. During hibernation, they stay underneath logs, leaves, tree bark, or tree holes.
Gray tree frog’s geographical range covers southeastern Canada and the eastern United States. In Canada, they are found in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. In the United States, their range extends to Oklahoma and central Texas towards west. Isolated population of this frog species are often found outside its known geographical range.
Gray tree frogs are arboreal. They rarely come down from high treetops apart from the mating season. They are mostly solitary and nocturnal. During day-time, they rest on tree branches and tree leaves, even under the bright sun. Their skin color offers them great camouflage helping them to stay hidden from predators. In the suburban areas, they can often be seen under porch lights to catch insects that are attracted to light. Hyla versicolor can survive at a temperature as low as -8 °C. When they are exposed at a subfreezing temperature, they produce a substance called glycerol, which changes into glucose, and gets circulated in its body cells. It works as an antifreeze and stops ice crystal formation in the cells.
Once the hibernation ends in early spring, the male gray tree frogs start their mating call in order to find a mate as well as to form a breeding territory. They mostly prefer to breed in semi-permanent puddles. However, they often breed in vernal pools, and swamps.
Gray three frogs can mate up to three times in one season. Most breeding takes place in the start of the season – somewhere around late April; and continues till early August. Dominant males can often be seen fighting with other male intruders in order to defend its territory. Amplexus can last for a few hours. Females lay 1000 to 2000 eggs in one season, usually divided in small cluster carrying 10 to 40 eggs. Tadpoles hatch within 3 to 7 days. Tadpoles have a rounded body with a wide tail. Depending on optimal conditions, they metamorphose in their adult form within 40 to 62 days. During metamorphosis, the froglets turn green for one or two days before turning to common gray. They reach sexual maturity in two years.
The grey tree frog forages throughout the night both in high vegetation and shrubs. They are quite acrobatic, and jump from tree branch to tree branch in order to catch its prey. They feed on moths, spiders, tree crickets, mites, beetles, flies, ants, grasshoppers, roaches and other invertebrates.
They have a high-pitched, chirp like vocalization. The female gray tree frogs do not call, but males call; and can display a gray, black or brown throat during the mating season, when males’ choruses are frequent at evening, and at night. During the daytime, individuals often call in response to thunder. They make around 17-35 notes/second.
Gray tree frogs generally prefer to eat live insects with soft-bodies. If you are planning on caring for your gray tree frogs, it is vitally important that you offer them frog live crickets. You can also supplement the main diet with other kinds of live insects, like silkworms, moths and flies.
Common predators of gray tree frog include small mammals, birds of prey, snakes, and other large sized frogs.
The gray tree frogs can live around 7 to 9 years in the wild.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has named this tree frog species in the “Least Concern” group.
The gray tree frog is often confused with Hyla chrysoscelis (Cope’s gray tree frog), with the latter being shorter in length, with faster vocalization.
The gray three frog’s scientific name ‘versicolor’ comes from Latin, in which, it means ‘variable colour.’ It is related to their ability to change skin color.
This species is not ‘threatened’ in its native habitat. However, it is believed that habitat loss can be a threat in future. In some areas, they are exposed to insecticides and pesticides.
Hyla versicolor has 48 chromosomes. In the scientific circles, it is popularly known as tetraploid gray tree frog.
Dead Hyla versicolor individuals and those who live in a non-typical environment are primarily grey in color.
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