Browsing Bliss Awaits You

It appears you're using Internet Explorer or an early version of Edge, which is a bit like watching a black-and-white TV with "rabbit ears." You're missing symmetry, joy and actual knowledge — not only here on my website but across the internet. I suggest you upgrade to Chrome or Firefox. You’ll discover a lot more nature, maybe even actual rabbit ears.

— Bryan

wood-frogs-amplexus-1280x920

Imagine you’re a female Wood Frog. You’ve spent the winter virtually frozen (sort of like Austin Powers or Ted Williams) in the woods under the leaf litter. But unlike Ted, you get to come back to life in the spring— not for baseball but to hop to a pond to meet some males, to fulfill your genetic destiny and produce a new generation of Wood Frogs.

A more placid pair of mating Wood Frogs / © Bryan Pfeiffer

A more placid pair of mating Wood Frogs / © Bryan Pfeiffer

When you arrive to pond, your abdomen swollen with eggs, you might encounter a single male. He’ll maneuver behind you and, to put it kindly, grab you for a long hug, during which you’ll lay your eggs and he’ll fertilize them externally as they emerge.

But sometimes this courtship amounts to pandemonium. Actually, there is no courtship, at least not any courtship a human woman might recognize or welcome. There is no judgment of suitable males on your part. No dinner and movie. You are instead seized upon by many males, each jockeying for position to fertilize your eggs, in the water, the moment you lay them.

This is Wood Frog “amplexus” — a word that derives from the Latin for “embrace.” It’s standard breeding behavior in Wood Frogs. Out there in the ponds, males seize upon almost anything moving, including other males or your fingers dipped into the water. Yep, occasionally females die during these encounters. Sometimes males die during these cluster-you-know-whats.

But if you’ve ever needed evidence that females share disproportionately the burdens of reproduction, I’ve got it on video from a pond in Montpelier on April 19, 2015.  The female is at the center of this mess. Switch to high-definition in the You Tube options for more “graphic” quality.

The female is the larger, more fawn-colored individual at the bottom of this cluster-f**k.

8 comments
  1. Gail says:

    Hello,
    There is a swamp very near where I observed the mating activity. The next day I was saddened to see 5 female carcasses under the water. I assumed this is from the rough treatment I observed them getting the day before from the many males competing to fertilize the females’ eggs. Anyway, this left me with a sad heart for the fate of the female who must endure for the propogation of the species. Do you have any words of consolation? I know this is a real right of Spring and I’d like to see its beauty as others seem to be doing.

    • Hi Gail, Well, nature is nothing if not brutal. But, perhaps as some solace, wood frogs often float under water like that and appear deceased, when they are in fact very much alive.

  2. michelle says:

    I have a swamp like back yard and every night sounds just like this

  3. charlie Hewson says:

    Well said…Your writing is wonderful! It adds color to one of my favorite signs of spring.

    • Bryan says:

      Aw, shucks. Thanks so much, Charlie. It’s great to hear from you. Rain here in Vermont; we’re heading out for the Spotted Salamander movement tonight!

  4. lindawurm says:

    It’s her sexy voice that drives the boys wild!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *