Upland chorus frog (Pseudacris feriarum)

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Upland chorus frog
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • In many parts of its range, the upland chorus frog is the first amphibian to start calling in the year, and is often viewed as a symbol of the arrival of spring.
  • The upland chorus frog is found in south-eastern USA, including New Jersey, Illinois, Texas and Florida.
  • Three parallel dark stripes mark the upland chorus frog’s back, and a prominent white stripe can be seen along the upper lip.
  • The call of the male upland chorus frog is a repeated, raspy trill which sweeps upwards in pitch.
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Upland chorus frog fact file

Upland chorus frog description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAmphibia
OrderAnura
FamilyHylidae
GenusPseudacris (1)

A member of a vocally distinctive group of amphibians known as the trilling chorus frogs (2), the upland chorus frog (Pseudacris feriarum) is a small, slender, ground-dwelling species (2) (4) (5) native to south-eastern USA (1).

The colouration of the upland chorus frog varies geographically (4), but the upperparts generally range from grey to tan or dark brown (2) (4) (6) (7). Frogs of this species often have three parallel dark stripes running down the back (2) (3) (4) (6), but in some individuals these stripes may be broken up, looking more like long spots, or may be missing altogether (2) (3) (4) (6) (7). These markings, in addition to the frog’s small size, help the upland chorus frog to remain inconspicuous (5).

This species has a white or cream belly, usually with some dark spotting on the chest (2) (3) (4) (6) (7). During the breeding season, the loose skin on the throat of the male upland chorus frog, where the vocal sac is located, is brown to yellowish in colour (2) (3) (6). In contrast, the female of this species has a smooth, white throat (3). Male upland chorus frogs tend to be smaller than females (2) (3) (6) (7).

Adult upland chorus frogs have a pointed snout (4) with a prominent white stripe running along the upper lip (2) (3) (4) (6) (7), and a distinct, wide, dark stripe can be seen on each side of the animal, running from the snout through the eye and along the side to the groin (2) (4) (6) (7). These side stripes usually merge on the top of the head (3), forming a triangular patch between the eyes (2) (3) (4) (7), although some individuals do not possess this marking (2). The skin of the upland chorus frog is slightly bumpy or granular (4) (7). This amphibian species has very small toe pads (2) (6) (7), and has limited or no webbing between its toes (2) (4) (6) (7).

Upland chorus frog tadpoles are relatively small and plump, and are generally olive to dark brown or nearly black in colour on the back (2) (3) (4) (7), which is uniformly marked with gold or brassy flecking (2) (7). The belly of the tadpole is a lighter, whitish to silver or bronze colour (2) (4), and the tail fin is transparent but may be patterned with some dark marks (2) (4) (7).

The call of the male upland chorus frog is a repeated, raspy trill (8) which sweeps upwards in pitch (3) (4) (7). This call has been likened to the sound made when a finger is run along the tines of a comb (2) (3) (4) (6) (7), and is described as a ‘crreek(4) (9) or ‘prreep(9), made in a continuous series of short trills (7). The call generally lasts about a second (2) (3), but the length often varies depending on the temperature, with shorter (3) more frequent calls being made in warm weather (2).

Also known as
southeastern chorus frog.
Synonyms
Chorophilus feriarum, Chorophilus nigritus feriarum, Helocaetes feriarum, Hyla feriarum, Pseudacris nigrita triseriat, Pseudacris triseriata feriarum.
Size
Adult male length: 2.1 - 3.5 cm (2) (3)
Adult female length: 2.2 - 3.9 cm (2) (3)
Tadpole total length: 3.4 - 3.6 cm (2) (3)
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Upland chorus frog biology

The upland chorus frog spends its days hiding in damp places (2) (3) such as under logs or within grass tussocks, emerging at night to find food (3). Although this species feeds throughout the year, it may do so less in the winter, and males tend not to feed at all during the breeding season (2).

Adult upland chorus frogs are sit-and-wait predators (2) with a diet that varies seasonally depending upon the prey available (2) (5). Generally feeding on anything it can within about one metre of its location (2), the upland chorus frog eats spiders, snails, caterpillars and a variety of insects, including beetles, ants and flies (2) (4) (5). Upland chorus frog tadpoles feed on detritus found within the mud on the bottom of their habitat (2) and on algae scraped from plant stems and other underwater objects (4).

Predators of upland chorus frog tadpoles are numerous, and include invertebrates, such as beetles, dragonfly larvae and spiders (2) (3) (4) (5), as well as newts, snakes and fish (2) (3). Adult upland chorus frogs are predated by a variety of fish, birds, water snakes, turtles and small or medium-sized mammals (2) (4) (5). It is thought that the upland chorus frog avoids contact with certain predators such as fish by breeding in temporary pools (5), but if approached by a predator, this species stays completely still and relies on camouflage to keep itself hidden (3). Upland chorus frog tadpoles are rapid swimmers, but if they come into contact with an object their defence is to suddenly stop swimming and sink motionlessly to the bottom of their habitat (2).

Interestingly, in addition to using the calls of other individuals as auditory cues, adult upland chorus frogs are thought to use the sun to help orientate themselves on migration to find their way to breeding sites (2). This species is capable of travelling some distance over land (2), and although breeding generally does not begin until late winter or the spring (2) (3) (6) (7), upland chorus frogs tend to start gathering at breeding sites during the autumn (2). In some parts of its range, the upland chorus frog is the first amphibian to be heard calling each year (2) (7), and is viewed by many to be a signal that spring is on its way (6). The exact timing of breeding is variable throughout the range of this species, and depends on the location, as well as on environmental conditions and the type of breeding site (2).

The upland chorus frog tends to select breeding sites containing warmer water, as this helps the larvae to develop quickly. At these sites, male frogs usually begin chorusing several days before breeding begins (2), perching together in large numbers on the edge of the water (6). Male upland chorus frogs may also call from the water (6), either in the shallows on the edge or floating with their rear legs out behind the body and with the head poking out of the water to expose the balloon-like vocal sac (2). Calling occurs throughout the day (2), particularly on overcast days (7), but during the peak of the breeding season the male upland chorus frog may call day and night to attract a mate (3). The male frogs remain in the breeding pools for several weeks to compete for mates, whereas the females tend to migrate to the area for short periods, returning to their terrestrial habitats once they have laid their eggs (3).

The female upland chorus frog moves towards an attractive calling male, and eventually will position herself in front of the male before making contact by touching him (2). At this point, the male immediately stops calling (2) and grasps the female from behind in amplexus (2) (7). In this position, the male fertilises the eggs as the female lays them (2). The female upland chorus frog lays several separate clusters of eggs (2) (3) (7) over the course of several days (2). Clutch sizes vary greatly, and have been reported to range from just 10 eggs to more than 500 (2), with females capable of laying up to 1,500 eggs in one breeding season (2) (7). Large female upland chorus frogs tend to produce more eggs than smaller females (2). The eggs are laid in small, elongate clusters which are attached to sticks, grass stems and other underwater items (1) (2) (3) (4) (6) (7) just below the surface (2) (4).

Upland chorus frog eggs hatch within a couple of weeks (2) (3) (4) (7), although hatching may take longer the cooler the water is (4). Metamorphosis is also dependent upon environmental conditions (3), but generally the tadpoles transform into adult frogs after about two months or more (2) (3) (4) (6) (7). The young adult frogs are thought to stay close to their watery habitat for a short time (4), before dispersing to surrounding fields and woods (3). Most upland chorus frogs reach sexual maturity within their first year (3), with males starting to breed at about eight to ten months of age, although females may not breed until their second year (2).

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Upland chorus frog range

The upland chorus frog occurs in south-eastern USA, from Pennsylvania and New Jersey southwards in an arc through southern Illinois and northwest Mississippi to Texas, and through North and South Carolina to western Florida (1) (2) (4).

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Upland chorus frog habitat

During the breeding season, the upland chorus frog is typically abundant in shallow, temporary bodies of water (1) (2) (6), including ponds, flooded woodlands and rainwater pools in open woods, fields and ditches (1) (2) (7). These temporary areas of water usually contain extensive grasses and other emergent vegetation (4) (9), and may be located some distance from a forest (2) (6). Interestingly, the upland chorus frog is even reported to breed in water collected within cow footprints (2).

Following the breeding season, the upland chorus frog disperses from its breeding sites, and moves to adjacent moist woodlands, meadows and wooded habitat within swamps and the edges of marshes (1) (2) (3) (6) (7). In these areas, this species can be found among the leaf litter, sheltering under surface debris or hiding within the burrow of a small animal (2). This species is also associated with streams, farm ponds, river-bottom swamps and bogs (1) (2) (4).

Although, as its name suggests, this frog is mainly an upland species in the north of its range (1) (9), it is also known to inhabit lowland areas in the south (1).

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Upland chorus frog status

The upland chorus frog is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Upland chorus frog threats

The upland chorus frog has a wide distribution and a presumably large population, and at present it is not known to be facing any major threats (1). However, although this species can be found close to and within moderately developed areas (4) (7) and is reportedly relatively tolerant of human activities (5) (7), it is thought that habitat destruction and alteration as a result of clear-cutting and urbanisation could potentially negatively impact local populations (1) (2). It has been reported that the upland chorus frog may be susceptible to certain agricultural chemicals (5), and populations living near roads could also suffer a high level of mortality as a result of collisions with traffic (2).

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Upland chorus frog conservation

The upland chorus frog is common or abundant in much of its range, has a wide distribution and is found in many protected areas, and so targeted conservation measures are not currently required for this species (1). However, although this species is faring well in many parts of its range, including Arkansas (7), Georgia (3) and the extreme southern counties of Illinois (6), it is classified as ‘Protected’ in New Jersey (5) and as a ‘Species of Conservation Concern’ in Pennsylvania and West Virginia (4).

The upland chorus frog is thought to be relatively adaptable to shifting habitat availability (2), and will be able to continue flourishing as long as there are areas of suitable wetland habitat with nearby cover available (2) (3), such as woodlots and pastures with temporary pools (3).

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Find out more

Learn more about amphibians and their conservation:

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This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
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Glossary

Algae
Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
Amplexus
The mating position of frogs and toads, in which the male clasps the female around the back or waist.
Detritus
Litter formed from fragments of dead material.
Emergent
Aquatic plants whose stems and leaves extend beyond the water’s surface.
Fertilisation
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Larva
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
Metamorphosis
An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2013)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Dodd, C.K. (2013) Frogs of the United States and Canada. Two-volume Set. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  3. Jensen, J.B. (Ed.) (2008) Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.
  4. Dorcas, M.E.and Gibbons, J.W. (2008) Frogs and Toads of the Southeast. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.
  5. Lannoo, M.J. (Ed.) (2005) Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.
  6. IllinoisNatural History Survey - Prairie Research Institute: Pseudacris feriarum (September, 2013)
    http://www.inhs.illinois.edu/animals_plants/herps/species/ps_feriaru.html
  7. Trauth, S.E., Robison, H.W. and Plummer, M.V. (2004) The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
  8. Long, K. (1999) Frogs: A Wildlife Handbook. Big Earth Publishing, Boulder, Colorado.
  9. Fergus, C. (2000) Wildlife of Pennsylvania and the Northeast. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
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Upland chorus frog  
Upland chorus frog

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