Discover nature this week as western chorus frogs alert us to the coming spring. Natural “antifreeze” in their blood keeps them from freezing as they overwinter in shallow burrows in the ground. Now we can listen for calls like a thumbnail drug across a comb - or a longer and lower pitched noise from the related upland chorus frog.
For some, the mere mention of a frog reminds them of anatomy class, as many a frog has been dissected in American classrooms. But there are lots of interesting facts and benefits to frogs other than the popular anatomy lesson.
The western chorus frog is found throughout Missouri, except for the Southeast region, where it’s replaced by the upland chorus frog.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, these chorus frog species are about the same size, ranging from ¾ to 1 and a half inches in length.The western version likes prairies, agricultural lands, large river floodplains and grassy edges of marshes. The upland chorus frog is found in small patches of woods, swamps and bottomland forest.
Both species are gray or tan in color with white bellies. The Western chorus frog has three wide, dark stripes or a series of spots down its back with a wide, dark brown stripe on its sides. The upland chorus frog has three narrow stripes or a broken series of dashes down the back.
By eating a variety of small insects and spiders, frogs help control populations of sometimes-troublesome insects and they also fall prey to many larger predators at each stage of their life cycle. Because they are sensitive to pollutants, they are considered an “indicator species” whose health can be a way to gauge the relative health of their ecosystem.
For more information on chorus frogs or other native Missouri wildlife, go online to Missouri Conservation.org.