Cricket frogs

One of the smallest vertebrates in North America is the cricket frog.  Only one of the two species lives in Texas: the northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans).  Adults grow to about the size of a thumbprint, give or take, and they are highly variable in colors and patterns (polymorphism).

A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) hiding in the grass (2009_09_27_029452)

I have to admit they can be difficult to photograph despite being active all year (even in winter).  Their size alone helps them vanish beneath the smallest things, like blades of grass or a fallen leaf.  Thankfully they’re numerous—very numerous—and they hang out in all the places where I tend to walk.  Actually, they hang out pretty much everywhere, something that makes them rather cosmopolitan among amphibians.

A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) hiding in leaf litter (2009_10_17_032275)

They’re quite the leapers, too.  They can jump up to six feet/two meters, which is pretty doggone impressive for their size.  Though the motion can help me find them if I don’t already know they’re in the area, it also means they can vanish in the blink of an eye if they leap into thick foliage or tall grass.

A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) hiding in grass (2009_09_26_029072)

I find many who look like paint has splattered on them, various splotches of green, black, gray, red or myriad other colors scattered along their head and back.  But do you notice a certain shape on its head?

A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) perched on a dead leaf (2009_09_26_029170)

There’s a different angle.  It’s a heart.  I see a lot of them with that neat little mark, though not all of them, and it ranges in color and brightness.  (Technically it’s a triangle, not a heart, but where’s the fun in calling it a triangle?)

A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) resting on a dead leaf (2009_09_26_029189)

The light stripe running from the eye to the front leg is also a good indicator, but like the rest of their traits, not all of them have it.

Considering how common they are here, seeing them is never a problem.  Recognizing them is quite another thing.  Their size makes them seem like juveniles of several different species, the unending array of colors and patterns can be confusing, and their bumpy skin always make them look like young toads instead of frogs.

10 thoughts on “Cricket frogs”

  1. These tiny frogs are really tiny as tadpoles. I’ve got a healthy population of Northern Cricket Frogs in my pond, and I am always amazed at at how many there are. To be honest, I just assumed that they wouldn’t be active this time of year – I should go take a look!

    1. They hide when it’s really cold, Amber, but they’re out and about every chance they get. The warmer temperatures these past few days have made a few appear here and there. If the forecasts are true, it looks like we’ll have comfortable weather for several days, so I bet that lures more of them into the open.

  2. We have large numbers of both species and they never fail to make me smile. For such tiny things they certainly make a lot of noise during the breeding season.

    Things are starting to warm up a bit here so I imagine I’ll see some cricket frogs out and about in the next few days — thanks for the preview!

    1. I’m so with you, Swampy! They’re just so darn cute and small that I grin a big ol’ goofy grin every time I see one. And how right you are about the noise being disproportionate to their size.

    1. Thanks, Thomas! I admit I’ve had some difficulty getting presentable images of these frogs. They’re just so small and elusive. Those last two are from one very cooperative individual.

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  4. Great presentation and photos, Jason. When the weather warms, I need to take a closer look — trying to take a closer look — at some of the tiny frogs I’ve assumed were just younger versions of other species.

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