Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Species Spotlight: Green Tree Frog

Green Tree Frog

An encounter with a green tree frog will certainly pique the curiosity of almost anyone. This amazingly colored frog, usually found in cypress swamps, floodplain sloughs, and cattail marshes of the southern United States also resides along the floodplains of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers in the extreme southern tip of Illinois -- in Alexander, Union, and Jackson counties. Considered one of the most beautiful tree frogs in North America, the coat ofHyla cinerea is very smooth and ranges in color from a bright leaf green to an olive green with a white to yellow stripe extending along its sides from the jaw to the thigh. The green tree frog is 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 inches long and has a very slender form. Its legs are 1 1/2 times the length of its head and body, which enables it to leap distances of 8 to 10 feet. Like all members of the tree frog family, the green tree frog has rounded adhesive discs on its unwebbed toes (these enable the frogs to climb) and horizontal pupils in its eyes.

By early May adult green tree frogs make their presence known. During the day the frogs crouch motionless in vegetation in and around water, relying on their coloration to protect them from predators. Each evening the nocturnal choruses of the males resound throughout the swamp. Their chorus has been compared to the sound of cowbells, and from early May to early August, when the temperature is above 68 deg. F, the frogs chorus in hopes of attracting a female.

After mating, females propel the eggs backwards, where they adhere to floating vegetation. Within 2 to 3 days the eggs hatch and the young larvae are nothing more then a head with a strong muscular tail. Two common names have been applied to larval frogs: tadpole, which means toad's head, and pollywog, which means wiggling head. The green tree frog tadpole stage lasts from 4 to 6 weeks. During this time numerous internal and external changes take place as the tadpole metamorphoses into an adult.

By mid-August the breeding pond is silent, the adults have gone, and the developing tadpoles and subadults continue to eat and grow. By autumn the young frogs have moved into grass and woodlands surrounding the breeding area to overwinter. It takes a year for green tree frogs to reach sexual maturity, so by late summer of the following year the young frogs will be able to join the adults in the annual chorus.

Susan Post, Center for Economic Entomology.

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Subject: INHSPUB-2150
Last Modified 3/19/96

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