Alaska Frawgs

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jamezevanz
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Alaska Frawgs

Post by jamezevanz » October 15th, 2014, 11:59 pm

Just added some wood frogs to the database and herpmapper. Any hope of seeing more this year has faded as I watch the snow creeping down the mountains. I didn't get out and specifically look for frogs this summer like I'd planned, too many distractions in too short a season. But I did find a few incidentally on fishing trips and poking around on some property I acquired. No fancy photography, just some vouchers, but I thought someone out there might be interested in seeing some from way up North.

My first frog of the year was found swimming in snow melt in LATE APRIL. This would be perfectly normal elsewhere, but keep in mind our trees don't even have proper leaves on them till the end of May and nighttime temperatures continue to dip below freezing for much of that time, often with accompanying late-season snows. Here's a previous post featuring that frog: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... nz#p221853

I vouchered frogs from three "counties" (actually boroughs and a census area, we don't have counties).


Matanuska-Susitna:
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This was the first of two frogs I found this season in different locations (90+ miles apart) with a single dilated pupil. Can anyone tell me if this is common and if so what causes it?
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Can you tell I was fishing?



Valdez-Cordova Census Area
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Note that two of the three specimens pictured have a light dorsal stripe. The population in this area seems to have a high percentage of individuals with this pattern. I do not see it often elsewhere.




Anchorage Borough
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Another with a single dilated eye.
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Typical habitat pretty much everywhere in AK.
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Kenai Borough
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Are you sick of wood frogs yet?

Wood Frogs are the only herp I can drive to (without crossing most of Canada). Our other amphibian species are restricted to Southeast Alaska, mostly inaccessible by road. Garter Snakes in the state are still nothing but a rumor, despite the occasional dead one falling off someone's car and causing a stir (lots of folks bringing their vehicles up from Washington on the Marine Highway ferry system). A dead one even turned up in someone's snowy driveway on the Kenai Peninsula last spring. Shortly afterward (still frigid by endothermic standards), someone dumped some hognose or gopher snake sheds near a popular Anchorage-area overlook. These two incidents got the media speculating about global warming and the possibility of snakes reaching our area. Utter nonsense.

My goal for next summer (in addition to shooting some professional quality herp-in-habitat photos) is to voucher some specimens from the Fairbanks area and maybe even further North. There don't appear to be any records in HERP or Herpmapper from up there and I know they're pretty common in Fairbanks, UAF does most of the frozen-frog research on them. I've got a fishing buddy up there. Should be an easy county record if no one beats me to it.

In closing, here's what makes living in a virtually herpless state bearable... nay... enjoyable:

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cbernz
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by cbernz » October 16th, 2014, 6:21 am

Cool post. Your Wood Frogs look very different from the ones down here. I've never seen Wood Frogs with dark blotches like that before - they almost look Leopard-like. The dorsal stripe is also unusual. Around here they are pretty much plain tan or reddish-brown with a dark mask.

Do you guys not have any sort of Chorus Frog up there?

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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by MCHerper » October 16th, 2014, 6:48 am

CBernz beat me to it regarding the spots on the sides. If I found a wood frog that looked like that here in NJ, I would be surprised by its appearance. Also, you indicated the habitat that you often find them in, which sparked some interest, as here they are a forest species, often found on the North facing side of a ravine or under moist cover such as rotting logs. I do sometimes see them about in the summer, but it will typically be them crossing a trail from one canopied area to another. I don't often see them in open areas like that in water, usually here it's pickerel frogs and green frogs in muddy puddles such as the ones that you photographed. Are wood frogs explosive breeders up there as they are down this way, or do they have a prolonged breeding season?

Here are a few typical wood frogs from this area:

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Wood frogs in vernals:

Female:

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Lone male harrassing other males in amplexus:

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Mating ball:

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I look forward to hearing more of your observations!

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sjfriend
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by sjfriend » October 16th, 2014, 7:28 am

Yes, their breeding season is measured in days. Maybe a couple of weeks at most. As for habitat, they can be found just about anywhere. Forested and much more opened is utilized. One thing around here is there is no short supply of water for breeding and they will start early. I have found them calling when ice is still covering a large part of the lake surface.

And James, thought we were going to get together for a herping expedition? You know, there is so much tolook for up here.

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jamezevanz
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by jamezevanz » October 16th, 2014, 8:04 am

I have noticed that our wood frogs look and behave somewhat differently than those I've caught in central New York, but hadn't noticed that those "down south" lack significant spotting. That's neat. The most significant difference I had picked up on was that up here their legs are shorter, bodies squatter, and they travel with toad-like hops rather than leaps. I didn't realize their habitat utilization was so different but now that you mention it, all the ones I saw in NY were under canopy whereas here I find them mostly in open areas with standing water-- ATV trails as pictured, areas of muskeg (waterlogged moss) around ponds, and along grassy sloughs that ajoin creeks.

Sjfriend-- We'll have to give it a shot next season. I got a bit sidetracked this year and didn't dedicate any time specifically to herping. I really should have hit some breeding ponds in May since the fishing sucked anyway.

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Mike VanValen
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by Mike VanValen » October 16th, 2014, 8:25 am

Thanks for sharing. I believe those western wood frogs were considered a subspecies at one time?

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by BillMcGighan » October 16th, 2014, 11:17 am

Those are some of the neatest marked wood frogs I've ever seen.
When you read about their ability to freeze, find them breeding in half frozen ponds, then look at their range map, you can get visions of little wood frogs pushing giant continental glaciers back north! :lol:

Nice rainbow too!



MVV
I believe those western wood frogs were considered a subspecies at one time?
Rana sylvatica cantabrigensis existed for a time. I believe it was based on tibia lengths; northerns shorter than southerns.
Jame's Alaskans do seem to have shorter tibias than our southerns.

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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by MCHerper » October 16th, 2014, 4:06 pm

BillMcGighan wrote:
MVV
I believe those western wood frogs were considered a subspecies at one time?
Rana sylvatica cantabrigensis existed for a time. I believe it was based on tibia lengths; northerns shorter than southerns.
Jame's Alaskans do seem to have shorter tibias than our southerns.
I guess that explains the toad like hops! I was also interested in whether they have identical vocalizations to ours or if there is a 'dialect' if you will? I also wondered if they had territorial vocalizations there, as here they don't (at least none that I have heard).

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Fieldnotes
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by Fieldnotes » October 16th, 2014, 4:49 pm

:thumb: This is a great post. I'm still kicking myself for not trying harder to find an Alaskan Wood Frog when I was there many years ago. I didn't find one then, so now i'm thinking of driving from California to the Article Circle in order to try again.

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Noah M
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by Noah M » October 16th, 2014, 9:06 pm

And I thought my finds from Ontario were north :roll:

Neat post. I always like seeing things from the fringes.

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by BillMcGighan » October 17th, 2014, 7:15 am

I was also interested in whether they have identical vocalizations to ours or if there is a 'dialect' if you will?
I think this is true. It's not well known that the 19th century herpetologist and linguist, Spencer Fullerton Frockmorton, recorded these wood frog dialects:


Canadian Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. ay

Minnesota Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Don’t cha know

Our southern US Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Y’all

Philly Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Yo

Jersey Wood Frogs
waaaaack, waaaaack, waaaaack, …. Youse guys

Boston Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Go paak ya caaa

:roll:

MCHerper
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by MCHerper » October 17th, 2014, 12:14 pm

BillMcGighan wrote:
I was also interested in whether they have identical vocalizations to ours or if there is a 'dialect' if you will?
I think this is true. It's not well known that the 19th century herpetologist and linguist, Spencer Fullerton Frockmorton, recorded these wood frog dialects:


Canadian Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. ay

Minnesota Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Don’t cha know

Our southern US Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Y’all

Philly Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Yo

Jersey Wood Frogs
waaaaack, waaaaack, waaaaack, …. Youse guys

Boston Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Go paak ya caaa

:roll:
That's funny. On a serious note, I know that bird calls can vary from region to region for the same species, and I thought that I had read that anuran calls can vary slightly as well. Therefore, I was asking if the wood frog has variations in its call from region to region if other factors such as temperature and the size of the frog were equal. Are there any records or observations of this in wood frogs?

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Rich in Reptiles
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by Rich in Reptiles » October 17th, 2014, 1:39 pm

Wow that's a beard! Lol! Very interesting post!

That's awesome you're wanting to do some herp-in-habitat photography! I'm pretty passionate about that style of photography and started a group on Flickr dedicated to it! If you want to join, please do! We already have a lot of great contributors so the more the merrier ;) https://www.flickr.com/groups/herp-in-habitat/

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Carl Brune
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by Carl Brune » October 17th, 2014, 6:29 pm

Cool post. They can sure handle the cold, no doubt. Regarding them being spotted, I did see this one in Ohio last year:
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Not the norm around here, of course.

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jonathan
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by jonathan » October 19th, 2014, 4:43 am

Nice post!

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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by MCHerper » April 8th, 2015, 4:41 pm

BillMcGighan wrote:
I was also interested in whether they have identical vocalizations to ours or if there is a 'dialect' if you will?
I think this is true. It's not well known that the 19th century herpetologist and linguist, Spencer Fullerton Frockmorton, recorded these wood frog dialects:


Canadian Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. ay

Minnesota Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Don’t cha know

Our southern US Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Y’all

Philly Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Yo

Jersey Wood Frogs
waaaaack, waaaaack, waaaaack, …. Youse guys

Boston Wood Frogs
waaack, waaack, waaack, …. Go paak ya caaa

:roll:
Bill, I came across something interesting the other day and thought of your response to my question. I was reading the book A Natural History of Amphibians by Stebbins and Cohen. On page 82, the topic Geographic Variation in Advertisement Calls: "Dialects" is addressed, the first part of which is quoted below.

"Often in a widely ranging species or those with a spotty distribution, the advertisement call varies from place to place. Such shifts in vocal characteristics or "dialects" sometimes correspond to subspecies distributions based on color or morphology, a situation comparable to that found in birds."

I guess my stupid newbie question wasn't so stupid after all :thumb:

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by BillMcGighan » April 8th, 2015, 6:10 pm

There is no such thing as a stupid nuby question.
That's a very cool find and interesting (and it brought some dignity to a really bad joke!)

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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by MCHerper » April 9th, 2015, 11:15 am

BillMcGighan wrote:There is no such thing as a stupid nuby question.
That's a very cool find and interesting (and it brought some dignity to a really bad joke!)
Very kind of you to say, thank you. Also, it was a good joke and I laughed. When I saw the eye rolling emoticon, that is what made me assume that it was taken as a stupid question.

Have a great herping season!

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Re: Alaska Frawgs

Post by Rothdigga » April 10th, 2015, 1:12 pm

I've found plenty near my dad's cabin on the Gulkana just around Sourdough. I can't remember finding any north in Fairbanks but I'm sure I did as a kid.
I'll be up in Fairbanks in June...maybe I'll beat you to that voucher! ha. I doubt I'll have time to look for them while up there though.

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