08 March 2009

You Learn Something New Every Day

Lately, I have tossed around the idea of starting a notebook simply to record things that I learn on a daily basis... just simple facts... little things that I hear or read. I figure that if I don't write these things down, I won't remember them. And as of late, I think I have learned something new almost every day. I had a few examples, but believe it or not, I don't remember what they were!

Except this one. While at the Sebert Property in LaPorte County yesterday, I was walking through an area of scattered Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and pin oak (Quercus palustris) and looking at pine cones on the ground when I noticed a cone that looked a little different. Then I realized that it wasn't a cone at all, but instead was a frog. This frog must have been pretty cold. He didn't move much at all, even when I picked him up.
Knowing all of the frog and toad species that are known from the Chicago Region, I was a little surprised that I really wasn't sure what kind of frog this was. It was dark gray, nearly black, approximately 1 1/2 inches long, and was warty in texture. I picked up the little guy and looked at his belly, and I noticed a bright yellow wash from the groin to the feet.
I've never seen a frog or toad like this. I know that the Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris) has a bright yellow-orange groin, but this sure isn't a Pickerel Frog. I decided to take several photos and try to figure it out when I got home.
Upon returning home, I pulled out Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana by the late Sherman Minton, and I flipped through the pages. The closest picture I could find to the frog I had found was an Eastern Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor). I decided to read the description to see how my frog compared. From Minton (2001):
Gray Treefrogs
Hyla versicolor LeConte and Hyla chrysoscelis Cope
Identification: Frogs with enlarged discs at the tips of their toes and of highly variable color but with a bright yellow wash on the posterior and lower thighs and a light spot below the eye. Body length of adult frog is approximately 1 1/2 inches. The two species can be distinguished by voice, blood cell size, and chromosome count.

Description: Head wider than long, snout short and blunt; eye of moderate size with horizontally elliptical pupil.... There is usually a dark band from the snout through the eye to the shoulder adn a dark mid-dorsal spot that may cover most of the back or be broken into several spots. A rhomboidal silvery to light green spot below the eye is consistently present.... posterior surface of thighs and underside of tibiae with dark reticulum covered by chrome yellow to orange wash; belly white.
Well who knew? I had seen lots of color and texture variation in Eastern Gray Treefrogs in the past (see my previous post on the frogs and toads of northern Indiana here), but I had never noticed that bright yellow area on the ventral side, or the silvery spot under the eye, or the dark stripe from the snout through the eye to the shoulder. But this individual fits this description very well, and is indead an Eastern Gray Treefrog.

Now that I've written about these characteristics of gray treefrogs, I will probably remember them. But those facts that were new to me in the past that I haven't recorded may be gone from my ever-worsening memory until I hear them again. And this time, I think I will write them down.


Justin said...

I think the idea notebook is a great idea. You should write it in said notebook. Or you should take a bunch of regular notebooks and put "Idea Notebook" stickers on them. A little fancy marketing and you're a millionare.

Scott said...

Good idea. Be sure to put it in your idea notebook as well.