Pond Party

Just like with birds and mammals, spring time is mating season for amphibians. After thawing out from the cold winter, frogs and salamanders return to their breeding pond. Females lay their hundreds of eggs that attach to vegetation. The eggs are fertilized by the male. After so many days the eggs will develop into tadpoles (frogs) or salamander larvae. After several weeks, the tadpoles develop into frogs and the salamander larvae become land dwelling salamanders. This module will compare and contrast the lifecycle of the frogs, salamanders, newt and toad that begin their lives in PEI ponds.

The General Life Cycle of a Frog

Mating Call

After attracting a mate with his call, the male frog will climb onto the back of the female and reach his arm around her in an embrace called amplexus. This usually takes place in water. 

Spawn

Female frogs lay eggs in jelly masses while toads lay them in long chains. As the female lays the eggs the male fertilizes them. In most cases the male and female leave the eggs after fertilized. Frogs and toads lay high masses (hundreds to thousands) of eggs due to many hazards that can have an impact on survival rates, including predation, pesticide use and pollutants. The eggs are usually attached to vegetation to prevent movement. 

Egg

On average it takes about 6-21 days for the eggs to hatch. The rate of development depends on water temperature, time the eggs were laid and condition in the pond. 

Tadpole 

When the eggs hatch tadpoles with a mouth, tail and poorly developed gills emerge. They will attach themselves to floating weed and grass. During this period they feed on remaining yolk from the egg which is attached to their gut. After 7 to 10 days they will begin to swim around and feed on algae. At about 5 weeks the gills start to get grown over by skin until completely covered. At 6 to 9 weeks limbs begin to appear. The body become long and their head is more distinct; they are starting to looked like frogs, but have really long tails. They feed on dead insects and plants. 

Froglet

At 12 weeks the tadpole has a short tail and resembles an adult frog. They are getting ready to leave the water.

Frog

On average it will take a frog 12 and 16 week to complete its lifecycle. This depends on food supply and water condition. Development occurs faster in warm water.

Frog 1- Spring Peeper

Spring Peepers are the only tree frogs found in PEI. They have toe pads that allow them to climb tree, shrubs and other vegetation. During mating season, which begins in the early spring and lasts 4 to 8 weeks, males will climb to these perches and sing their distinctive mating songs. It takes a lot of energy to sing, so the males form a large group and sing together. Each male frog can make up to 90 calls per minute over a 4 hour period. The weather has an influence on the calls; during warmer weather the frogs will call more frequently. The calling of the males attract the females. A female choose a mate and lets him know by nudging him.

The female lays 800-1000 brown coloured eggs that are fertilized by the male. The eggs may be deposited singly or in a group in to pond water, attached to vegetation and in the mud. It takes 6 to 12 days for the eggs to hatch into tadpoles. The tadpoles are short and have a prominent dorsal fin. They feed on algae, dead vegetation, bacteria, fungi and zooplankton in the pond. Tadpoles become prey for many other organisms, such as fish, beetles and salamander larvae. 

Spring peepers remain in the larval form for as long as 90-100 days or as short as 45-60 days, depending on the weather, the time the eggs were laid and conditions in the pond. Adult spring peeper can be distinguished by the "X" marking that appears on their backs.

Frog 2 - Wood Frog

As soon as Wood Frogs thaw from the winter cold they migrate to their breeding pools. They prefer isolated melt and rainwater pools, but will go where ever is available. The males begin to call using their "duck-like" song. The attracted females enter the water and a male will attach to her. She will lay 1000-2000 eggs that the male fertilizes. The female will move the eggs to a swallow area and the breeding pair will leave the eggs. Since mating occurs relatively early, there is a possibility the water will freeze. Wood frog eggs have adapted to withstand cold temperature. After one and a half to two months (late April-early May) the eggs develop into tadpoles. Into late June/early July the tadpoles have developed legs and absorb their tails as they are prepare to go to land. 

                 

                 

Frog 3 - Green Frog

The mating season of green frogs may begin in early spring and last into late August. Male green frogs have a mating call that sounds like a twang of a loose banjo string (1 note repeated 3-4 times). Green frogs are sexually mature at 1 or 2 years. The female lays up to 3000 eggs. Once fertilized, the eggs take a month to hatch. The transition from tadpole to adult can take up to one year, depending on the water temperature and food availability. Male green frogs a territorial; they actively defend their territory and will physically or vocally attack intruders.  

Frog 4 - Leopard Frog

The mating season for leopard frogs may last 7-28 days, usually during March and April. Leopard frogs are sexually mature at age 2 or 3. Male leopard frogs are not territorial. They often gather to attract females. The female lays 3000 to 6000 eggs that are fertilized by a male and attached to substrate in the pond. After breeding, the adults leave the eggs and head for their summer habitat.

Frog 5 - Pickerel Frog

Mating season of pickerel frogs takes place from March to May, mating usually takes place in early April. Males call for their mates with a weak, low pitch croak. The female lays 2000-3000 firm globular egg masses that are hard to spot. The eggs are attached to branches or vegetation, 10cm below the water surface. Olive green tadpoles hatch from the eggs. In August/September, 87-95 day after the eggs are laid, the tadpoles develop into frog. Pickerel frogs are sexually mature at 2 years old.

Toad 1 - American Toad

During the first warm spring night PEI's only toad, the American Toad, migrates to its breeding wetland. The males usually arrive first. The males call with a long trill that lasts 6-30 seconds. Females are drawn to the choruses of males. When the female arrives, males fight to grab her. Once paired, the female was deposit a long strand of eggs that are fertilized by the male and attached to rocks and sticks underwater. It might take 3 days to 2 weeks for the eggs to hatch, depending on the water temperature. Tiny black tadpole emerge from the eggs, in 2 month the tadpole become 1.5cm long toadlets. The toadlet will travel to the woods and gardens. In 2 or 3 years, the toads are able to reproduce. 

             

                                                  

Salamander 1 - Blue-spotted Salamander

Breeding season for blue-spotted salamanders starts in mid-March and goes to the end of April. The thawing ground indicates to the salamanders that spring is near. The males begin to migrate to the breeding pool (sometime 500m away); they females join them shortly after. There is a elaborate courtship that takes place in the water between a male and female.  This includes approach, contact, nudging and tail fanning by the male. After a short period of amplexus, the female will follow the male and pick up a deposited spermatophore and store it in her cloaca for egg fertilization.

               

The eggs can be laid singly or in masses of 6-10 eggs per clutch. Each female may lay 80-500 clutches. The egg mass attach to vegetation of sink to the bottom of the pond. After a month the eggs will hatch and salamander larvae will emerge. The larvae will feed on insect larvae and other small aquatic animals, such as tadpoles. By late August the air-breathing adult salamander has developed and is ready to migrate away from the pond, but will return when ready to breed. Given favourable habitat conditions, blue-spotted salamander may live for decades. 

Salamander 2- Spotted Salamander

During the spring, spotted salamanders leave their subterranean habitat to travel, sometimes long distances, to return to their breeding pool. They often migrate during periods of heavy snowmelt, warm spring rains or humid night. Males court a female by nudging and rubbing her with his snout.  During mating the male will drop a spermatophore, the female picks it up and stores it in her cloaca. The male can drop up to 100 spermatophores a season.

                  

The breeding period may last a few days to a week. After fertilization the female lays up to 200 eggs. The globular mass of eggs is attached to a twig or underwater structure. It takes a few weeks for the eggs to hatch. It takes the salamander larvae 2 to 4 months to develop terrrestrial characteristics and go to land. Some might overwinter as larvae. After 2 to 5 years as a terrestrial juvenile, the salamander becomes sexually mature. Spotted salamander may live up to 20 years. 

Salamander 3 - Red-backed Salamander

Red-backed salamanders mate during the fall. When spring time comes, the female will lay 3 to 14 eggs in or under rotting wood. The mother will wrap her body around the eggs until they hatch, which takes 6-8 weeks. When the eggs hatch the young look just like the adult salamander, except much smaller. Their gills are absorbed and the young are quite independent. They recognize their relatives through smell. Although red-backed salamanders live a solitary life, the mother will allow her young to forage in her territory. Red-backed salamander mate every second year. 

Newt 1 - Red-spotted Newt

The red-spotted newt has a unique life cycle when compared to that of the other island amphibians.  After hatching from an egg, red-spotted newts go through two phases of metamorphosis as opposed to one. Breeding season start late winter and goes into early spring. The female is attracted to the spots on the male's hind legs, as well as his wiggles, tail fanning and odour he releases. After courtship, the male drops a spermatophore which the female picks up and uses to fertilize her eggs. The female will lay 200-400 eggs, one at a time. After 3 - 8 weeks the eggs hatch and the aquatic larvae, or tadpoles, emerge.  The larvae are dark green with red spots. After two months the aquatic larvae metamorphs into a terrestrial eft, or the red eft. The gills are shed and lungs develop for life on land. This stage last for 2 - 7 years. The eft is light orange with bright red spots. During this stage the newt's skin is toxic; the colours act as a warning sign.

The final stage of the red-spotted newt lifecycle brings it back to the water. The aquatic adult resembles the aquatic larva, with olive-green skin. The underside is orange-yellow freckled with many black spots. It uses it powerful tail to navigate through water. The red-spotted newt may live 15 to 20 years. 

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