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 Post subject: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 10th, 2010, 8:10 am 
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Location: Northern New England
I posted this a short while ago and it's worth putting back up. Somebody else, I'm sorry but I forget who, posted a great guide to identifying lungless salamander larvae. I'm really hoping he has a backup to post. I made some edits to this based on feedback which were not backed up and I'm happy to make changes or improvements people suggest.

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Ok northeasterners, I hope this helps somebody! Now that many of the early spring amphibians have ended their migrations to wetlands, bred, and in many cases moved back uphill, the time has come to get into the field and keep track of egg masses. This time of year up until about the end of May (this far north anyway) there are only a handful of mass-laying species we have to worry about:

Wood Frogs
Northern Leopard Frogs
Pickerel Frogs
American Toad
Fowlers Toad
Jefferson Salamander
Jefferson/Blue-spotted hybrids
Spotted Salamander

In this post I will not be dealing with mid-summer breeders such as Bullfrogs and Green Frogs, or species that do not lay noticeable egg masses such as Eastern Newts, Blue-spotted Salamanders, or Spring Peepers, etc, which all lay individual eggs or groups of 2-3 eggs attached under leaves and debris. Please note that old egg masses that have hatched out or are about to hatch may be tattered, torn, or completely separated into a film.

Let's start simple. Frog eggs vs. salamander eggs. Telling the difference between the two is quite easy. Frogs lay individual clear eggs with a visible embryo contained within each egg. With frogs, the outside edge of the egg mass is made up of the eggs themselves. Salamanders take it a step farther and coat the entire egg mass with an additional layer of jelly, presumably as protection from predators such as newts. These two photos demonstrate the difference clearly:

Frog eggs. Notice that you can easily see the contour of each individual egg on the outside of the mass.
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Salamander eggs. Notice that there is a layer of jelly, in this case about a finger-width wide, surrounding the mass of eggs.
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And the two together:
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Now we'll go down the list.

Wood Frog

Wood frog egg masses are pretty easy to identify. You would expect to find Wood Frogs breeding in ponds, vernal pools, and marsh edges in or near forested habitat at varying elevations. A typical egg mass can have between 500 and 2000 eggs. The embryos start out black on top and white on the bottom, as do most open-water amphibian eggs, but as the embryo develops into a tadpole the white is lost. A fully-formed mass that has been in the water for a day or so is about the size of a softball and the clear space between the embryos and the margin of each egg is many times greater than the width of the embryo (see the first photo posted).

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At a glance, Wood Frog egg masses underwater will look something like this:

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Often, groups of Wood Frogs will lay their eggs in close proximity, usually around emergent vegetation:

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Sometimes amphibian eggs can get an opaque hue to them. In Spotted Salamanders that is a genetic trait but I do not know for certain if that is true for Wood Frogs and other amphibians as well.

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Northern Leopard Frog

Leopard Frog eggs look a lot like Wood Frog eggs with a couple key differences. The embryos are about the same size but the eggs themselves are much smaller and tighter. The clear space between the margin of the eggs and the embryo is usually the about the same thickness as the embryo itself. Because Leopard Frogs lay more eggs per mass than Wood Frogs (2000-4000) but the eggs are much smaller, the entire egg masses end up being about the same size (think baseball-softball).

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Leopard Frogs typically lay their eggs in lake and river flood planes where sedimentation and silt can build up pretty quickly. It is not uncommon to find them covered in a thin layer of matter:

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Pickerel Frog

If you can identify Leopard Frog eggs you can identify Pickerel Frog eggs. The egg masses are almost exactly the same except instead of the eggs being black on top and white on bottom, they are brown on top and yellow on bottom. Pickerel Frogs are usually higher in elevation as well.

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American Toad

Where I live, the American Toad is the only frog that lays its eggs in a long string. A single strand could have between 2,000 and 20,000 eggs depending on the size of the female.

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I've never seen Fowlers Toad eggs and don't know if there is a good way to tell them apart. At least I'm being honest. If you have photos or ID tips, post 'em!


Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander egg masses are made up of about 50-250 eggs, can be as large as a grapefruit, and are very dense/firm. Usually they are laid in ponds, vernal pools, and marsh edges without fish. If you pick up a Spotted egg mass it will usually hold its shape in your hand. Eggs are usually attached to sticks, branches, and vegetation below the surface of the water.

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Even as the egg mass ages and the embryos develop you can see that it is firm and continues to hold its shape when pulled from the water.

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Jefferson Salamander

Pure Jefferson Salamander eggs are laid in masses of 20-30 eggs but females usually lay multiple masses. Sometimes masses are laid in a line down a single stick and, once they swell with water, may fuse into one another and appear to make up a single mass. The masses closely-resemble those of Spotted Salamanders but, in addition to being much smaller, are not firm. If you pick up a Jefferson mass the eggs will run through your fingers or break off the stick before even making it into your hand.

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In the above photos it almost looks like some of the eggs are about to fall right off the stick. Below you can see that the masses flatten out in my palm. The below eggs may be hybrids, I'll explain more about that next.

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Jefferson Salamander hybrids

Hybrids between Jefferson and Blue-spotted Salamanders exist. The two species cannot breed with one another however a hybrid line of mostly-parthenogenic females can breed with either pure species. It's a very complicated subject that I'd be happy to talk about in more detail in a different thread. Hybrids more closely-related to Blue-spotted Salamanders will lay individual eggs or small clusters of eggs under leaf matter. Those closer to the Jefferson Salamanders will lay egg masses that basically look like those of pure Jefferson Salamanders. Hybrid egg masses, however, usually have a hi proportion of nonviable eggs that do not develop. The dud eggs are usually gray and swell up quickly. The gray swelling is caused by the water mold saprolegnia. Saprolegnia can be seen in amphibian eggs of any kind but it is very common in Jeff/Blue-spotted hybrids. Below is a photo of an older hybrid egg mass. Do not take note of the yellow color, that is just a function of the age of the mass (see the last spotted salamander egg mass photo for another example of an older mass).

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This is a rather extreme example, but out of about 30 total eggs, only 3 or 4 seem to be developing. Usually, according to my anecdotal observations, the ratio is closer to about 50/50. There are reasons for the nonviability that a genetics friend of mine recently explained to me. I fear repeating it here would fry a few brains.


Final Notes

Many people are blown away at how large egg masses are relative to the size of the animals laying them but at one point, they had to all fit in there somehow. The answer is in the water. Eggs, when the are first laid, have very little water in them and there is almost no space between the embryos and the margin of each egg. Take a look at these two photos taken recently:

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Immediately after leaving the amphibian the eggs start to take on water and quickly swell up to many times their original size and weight.

This post is limited currently to Vermont spring breeders. If you would like to add to the collection to increase the annual and geographical range then please post photos and, for new species, descriptions would be great because I won't know what the heck I'm talking about.


Last edited by Gyri on March 3rd, 2011, 9:36 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 10th, 2010, 12:17 pm 
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This is A great Post. I read the whole thing and learned alot. I am very unfamiliar with Egg masses. Now all we need is a tadpole post and salamander larva post and I'm Set.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 10th, 2010, 12:56 pm 
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I really like the shot of the maculatum depositing eggs on the stem, very awesome. A thorough post indeed :beer:


I think there is a typo in the wood frog section, it says "between 500 and 200 eggs", guessing that should say 2000 eggs (though i'd be surprised if any got over 1,500). And with American toads, 5000 eggs would be low-ballin' it. I've counted almost 11,000 in one female.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 10th, 2010, 3:26 pm 
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AWESOME POST!! I am so glad you reposted this!
I agree with BenIsAlive we just need a larvae and tadpole post.
I am terrible with tadpoles!!


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 10th, 2010, 4:27 pm 
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Matt J wrote:
I think there is a typo in the wood frog section, it says "between 500 and 200 eggs", guessing that should say 2000 eggs (though i'd be surprised if any got over 1,500). And with American toads, 5000 eggs would be low-ballin' it. I've counted almost 11,000 in one female.


Thanks for pointing those errors out. Wood Frogs were a typo, as you guessed. American Toads were just me being wrong. I've just hit the books, it's 2,000 - 20,000 eggs.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 11th, 2010, 2:05 pm 

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that gay tint maybe a fungus??? :?


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2011, 9:38 am 
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I am bumping this now that egg mass season has begun in parts or our region. I will add Tiger Salamanders to this writeup as soon as somebody tells me something useful about how to differentiate tigrinum eggs from maculatum eggs beyond a simple embryo count (too much overlap for my comfort). I would also need photos :) Kyle, Bob, or Nate, I recommend sticking this. Kyle mentioned he would do that when egg mass season returned way back when I first posted this pre-crash.

edit: NJ chorus frog coming soon!


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2011, 3:47 pm 

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AHHHH.......AMPHBIAN CAVIAR.......serve on a ritz?????? :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2011, 5:29 pm 
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Nice guide you've put together!

What's this one? Found in a shallow seep-pool in southeastern KY in May of last year. Notice the hemlock needles in the substrate for size reference. I didn't handle it so have no clue as to the consistency.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2011, 7:40 pm 
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Haha, beats me. It does not look like a mass-laying species ;) Kentucky is getting south enough that there are a lot of species who's eggs I'm not familiar with. Perhaps spinifer or someone else has a clue.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2011, 7:56 pm 
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Jason B wrote:
What's this one? Found in a shallow seep-pool in southeastern KY in May of last year. Notice the hemlock needles in the substrate for size reference. I didn't handle it so have no clue as to the consistency.


I'll throw in a vote for a hylid of some sorts.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2011, 8:08 pm 
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Matt, I was actually thinking Hylid as well. I've seen versicolors laying eggs and they don't attach them to anything, just scatter them loose on the substrate.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 5th, 2011, 10:02 am 
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Was there are loose mass containing those eggs? I think they might be chorus frogs. The versicolor/chrysoscelis eggs I have found were freshly laid, but floating on the surface. Maybe they sink after they begin developing.

Here are some chorus frog eggs I found last night.

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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 5th, 2011, 10:26 am 
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In May though? The time of year had me looking more strongly at Hyla over Pseudacris. A disarticulated chorus frog mass could look like that I suspect, as spinifer pointed out.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 5th, 2011, 10:59 am 
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Gyri wrote:
In May though? The time of year had me looking more strongly at Hyla over Pseudacris. A disarticulated chorus frog mass could look like that I suspect, as spinifer pointed out.


Oh thats true, I forgot about the date, although they are fairly developed. If it was the beginning of May it might fit, not sure how the weather works in Kentucky.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 5th, 2011, 11:54 am 
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Yeah, I think there is potential for chorus frog masses in May but they should be getting hard to find by then. I don't have a lot of experience with chorus frogs but in the south my impression is that you can hear them calling just about any time of year but the peak is over in March with a little activity continuing into April. They hatch pretty quickly but it's certainly not out of the question for early May.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 6th, 2011, 6:29 am 
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It was in early May. The site is in an old growth hemlock grove in a deep canyon - it stays pretty cool. I visited the site again in August and found several tadpoles, that I assume hatched from the egg mass. Pseudacris brachyphona:
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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 25th, 2011, 10:35 am 

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I found these Spadefoot toad egg masses and larvae 3-29 of last year. I'm not sure of the consistency.

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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 25th, 2011, 12:35 pm 
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New Jersey Chorus Frog.

Egg masses about the size of a golf ball

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With developing embryos
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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 25th, 2011, 5:42 pm 
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This is perfectly perfect in every way. Thanks for taking the time to post the answers to exactly the questions that I was trying to answer with google searches for the past few days.

I'd still like to see examples of pure blue spotted and peeper eggs just for comparison if people have them!

Thanks again Gyri.

-Alex


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 26th, 2011, 5:41 pm 
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Viridovipera wrote:
This is perfectly perfect in every way. Thanks for taking the time to post the answers to exactly the questions that I was trying to answer with google searches for the past few days.

I'd still like to see examples of pure blue spotted and peeper eggs just for comparison if people have them!

Thanks again Gyri.

-Alex


Thanks. Peeper and blue-spotted eggs were not included because those two species lay their eggs singly or in very small groups on the undersides of leaves and attached to low-laying vegetation and it is very uncommon to actually find those since there are no actual masses. I have scooped up blue-spotted eggs a couple times by accident and have seen peepers lay eggs in captivity but have never taken photos of either. These days I always have my camera on hand so you can be sure I'll snap a shot if I find any in the future.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 27th, 2011, 6:27 am 

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Ambystoma opacum Not really an egg mass but I figured I'd include it. Does anyone have Tiger salamander egg mass pix? I have some but they are less than spectacular..

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 27th, 2011, 6:52 am 
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I sent a bunch of pics for Gyri to add to his original post, but they have not shown up yet. I guess hes been busy with all the VT herp activity. :roll:


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: March 27th, 2011, 7:19 am 
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spinifer wrote:
I sent a bunch of pics for Gyri to add to his original post, but they have not shown up yet. I guess hes been busy with all the VT herp activity. :roll:


"Lazy" is a better word for it.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 13th, 2011, 3:56 pm 

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Ok guys, I am stumped, I have used this thread for a reference many times over and the other day I was out and could NOT figure out what this belongs to. Any ideas? A little background on the location.

This was in a mountain area, heavily forested, in a flooded area where there are many vernal pools. There were plenty of Ambystoma Maculatum masses, along with what appeared to be some frog species. This however was a small pool seperated from the others that was quickly drying out(I don't know if that had any effect on the way the eggs were position or not). I found some Eastern Spotted Newts in these pools along with hearing the occasional frog. I did not see any toads around that I recall.

This picture was taken around April 10th or 11th(I cannot recall) Sorry for the blurry-cam picture quality, I did not have my DSLR with me so my cell phone camera had to do.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 17th, 2011, 3:44 pm 
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I'd say those are wood frog eggs, probably a partial mass. The only thing that could look similar is a leopard frog mass which would have less jelly around each individual egg


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 17th, 2011, 6:52 pm 
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Location: Marshall County, WV
Little Help please? found in Marshall county WV. Thanks guys!
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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 4:12 am 
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I can't tell if the eggs are black and white and the photo is tinted yellow or if the eggs are actually brown and yellow. If the embryos were brown on top and yellow on bottom, as the photo appears, I would say those are pickerel frog eggs. If they were black on top and white on the bottom then leopard.

My guess is that the habitat was either permanent water or in a flood plane (not a woodland vernal pool)?


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 5:38 am 
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Thanks Gyri. habitat was a large permanent woodland pond. I was thinking pickeral eggs. They were for sure brown and yellow. Thanks again for confirming.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 5:58 am 
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Cool. A permanent woodland pond sure fits the bill for pickerels too. If you read the description in some text books, pickerel frog egg masses are "plinth-shaped". I have yet to see one that is obviously plinth-shaped and also have yet to meet herpetologist who knew off the top of their head what a plinth is without having looked it up after reading about it in the frog description.

I heard the first pickerel frogs of the year calling up here in VT the other day. Now, if I can just find their eggs.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 11:20 am 
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Wow, "plinth", why don't they just say rectangular box shape. Yea, I had to look it up. haha

I'm sure you'll find some eggs. If I know anyone who can, its you. :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 11:29 am 
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I know American Toad eggs were already discussed, but here's a recent picture of them with the culprits, and before they have stuff growing on them. (Stuff is a scientific term.)

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And I'm hoping it's safe to assume these are Spadefoot eggs. I'm looking for confirmation.

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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 12:45 pm 
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Quote:
And I'm hoping it's safe to assume these are Spadefoot eggs. I'm looking for confirmation.


Looks pretty safe to me.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 20th, 2011, 2:04 pm 
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Oh man, Spadefeets, another I need to add. Would you guys say that spadefoot eggs generally look like jefferson masses but without the extra layer of protective jelly around the entire mass? It's not a species I've ever seen the eggs of.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: May 8th, 2011, 9:02 am 
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Hey folks,
Does anyone have any pictures of the eggs of some of our local hylid friends?
Cheers,
Alex


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: May 21st, 2011, 7:52 am 
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I'm not very good at telling the difference between American and Fowler Toad. These were found in a small puddle/ditch in the middle of a dirt road with a vernal literally on either side of the road. These were the tightest corkscrews I've ever seen. The vernals already had hundreds of Anaxyrus larvae. So the question is, American or Fowler's?

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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: May 29th, 2011, 1:03 pm 
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Those eggs are screwy!
Sorry for the late response here. I'm actually not sure if there is a good way to tell amercan from fowlers eggs. You'd probably need to make that call based on habitat and have some knowledge about the local distributions of the two species. MattJ might have more insight into this one, he's our toad guy ;)

withalligators wrote:
Hey folks,
Does anyone have any pictures of the eggs of some of our local hylid friends?
Cheers,
Alex

I don't have any, unfortunately. To my knowledge, none of our northeast treefrogs lay actual egg masses and instead lay eggs loose in vegetation. The only time I've ever seen treefrog eggs was as they were coming out of the treefrog. In that case it was not necessary to look closely at the eggs to know what species they had come from.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: May 30th, 2011, 5:02 pm 
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Those eggs were Cope's Alex.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 2nd, 2011, 9:44 pm 
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I know, but I'm in NY right now. When I get back to MD I'll try to get Vince to post the pictures he took of the mass if they are any good. I have pics of regular versicolor as well, but they are somewhere mysteriously elusive. I think it would be awesome to get this thread as complete as possible. Those cricket frog egg pics we got should go up here too.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 3rd, 2011, 2:21 am 
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I was told those cricket eggs were actually copes.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: June 5th, 2011, 7:46 am 
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withalligators wrote:
I think it would be awesome to get this thread as complete as possible. Those cricket frog egg pics we got should go up here too.


I agree. I intended to update the thread with all the other mass-laying species early this spring but never got around to it. Life does weird things to me sometimes... This thread is the #1 result in google for the search term "Egg Mass ID". It got at least one new person to register on the forum (though they have not been back since). I'll definitely have it brought up to date before the next egg season. I will also edit the post to have more likely google search terms ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: October 27th, 2011, 6:20 pm 
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I'd like to add some Hyla versicolor/chrysoscelis eggs to this post. These are from South/central Indiana.

Image

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Proof:

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: October 28th, 2011, 4:42 am 
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Thanks John.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: November 22nd, 2011, 10:52 pm 
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I think this should be stickied!


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: November 23rd, 2011, 1:55 am 
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It was. Come spring, it will be again.


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: November 23rd, 2011, 6:43 am 
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brick911 wrote:
It was. Come spring, it will be again.


This time I intend to get the OP updated with new species by then!


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 13th, 2012, 5:35 pm 
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Location: New Yawk
mcurrie84 wrote:
I'm not very good at telling the difference between American and Fowler Toad. These were found in a small puddle/ditch in the middle of a dirt road with a vernal literally on either side of the road. These were the tightest corkscrews I've ever seen. The vernals already had hundreds of Anaxyrus larvae. So the question is, American or Fowler's?

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A good clue in this is timing! American's breed much earlier in the year than Fowler's.

Also, STICKY FOR SPRING!


Last edited by John Vanek on April 13th, 2012, 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 13th, 2012, 6:33 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 12:40 am
Posts: 3133
Location: Pennsylvania- Bucks Co. near Phila.
What are you trying to spell there?


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 19th, 2012, 2:55 pm 
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Joined: June 19th, 2010, 6:42 pm
Posts: 848
Location: New Yawk
kyle loucks wrote:
What are you trying to spell there?


Not sure lol


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 Post subject: Re: Egg Mass ID
PostPosted: April 19th, 2012, 4:27 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:52 am
Posts: 3464
Location: Morrisville, PA
This is stickied... in the "sticky" thread.


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