Amplexus

The ditch, recently filled with snow, is overflowing now with ice-cold water. But that didn’t deter the wood frogs I found there the other evening. I heard an odd sound, sort of half duck, half something else which drew my attention to ripples on the water surface.

To my surprise it was a frog, in full mating call. I crept closer. It didn’t seem to notice me. Closer still. Suddenly one frog became two frogs — caught in “the act”.

Or amplexus, as a scientist would describe it. Except not quite. When wood frogs mate the smaller male grabs the larger female from behind. These two appeared not to have read the memo.

Then, as the angle changed, I realized I wasn’t looking at two frogs, I was seeing three. A ménage à trois, with the female stuck in the middle of this amphibian sandwich.

Wood frog threesome

Apparently this female was lucky that the mating season was hardly underway. At the height of the hormones, the males go crazy. They gather in huge numbers in small ponds and seasonal pools, calling and thrashing around. Anything that enters the water is fair game. I watched one video of a salamander that happened to be in the wrong pool at the wrong time and it was mobbed by male wood frogs.

Ditto for female frogs. A dozen or more males may descend on her, each trying to fertilize the hundreds or thousands of eggs she’ll lay. Talk about testosterone! The item I read said such mash-ups sometimes result in injury (no kidding) or death. (An unhappy thought. But who to? It didn’t say.)

Wood frog menage a trois

I’m not sure how long the lust-fest had been going on before I arrived, but it showed so sign of ending.

Menage a trois

I inched closer to the oblivious three-some. Just as I was about to take another shot, they disappeared, sinking to the bottom of the ditch. Where did they go? It took me several seconds to find them, still in the throes of it, seemingly standing upright underwater.

Underwater wood frogs

I watched for several minutes but they showed no signs of resurfacing. So I left them to each other and wandered home, pondering this latest encounter with the neighbours whose world I’m fortunate enough to share.


Wood frog … Rana sylvatica

Puddle Jumper

The salt lick brings moose and elk and occasionally deer. They stomp around, churning up the earth, punching holes in it with their big cloven hooves.

When it rains enough, the hoof holes fill with water. A perfect spot for this little wood frog.


Wood frog   Rana sylvatica

Frogsicle

Meet the only North American amphibian who lives north of the Arctic Circle.

Not this little guy — he lives in my garden — but his cousins in Alaska and northern Canada. Each winter the wood frog does something seemingly impossible: It freezes and thaws several times.

IMG_4291

Incredible? Yup. Wood frogs hibernate near the ground surface, often under leaf litter. As the air temperature drops, so does their body temperature.

If you find one of these frogs during a cold spell you might think it was dead. No heart beat. No blood flow. No brain activity. Drop him on something hard and he’ll go clunk.

Yet as the air warms up, so does he. This can happen repeatedly during the winter and no harm done.

Pretty impressive for a guy that eats snails, worms and insects. Clever little bandit.

P.S. Like to know how they do it?


Wood frog   Rana sylvatica