Find me on Substack »
Breeding Wood Frogs
Pandemonium in a Pond
Imagine you’re a female Wood Frog. You’ve spent the winter virtually frozen in the woods under the leaf litter. Now you get to come back to life — to get yourself to a pond to meet some males, to fulfill your genetic destiny and produce a new generation of Wood Frogs.
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.
The female is the larger, more fawn-colored individual at the bottom of this cluster-f**k.