They’re small, a little slimy, unassuming and fragile. Most don’t even take notice of them; they are the state’s most abundant frog species, the Connecticut tree frog, and they are fascinating creatures that have amazing abilities.
Each year, the month of March marks the unfreezing of the tree frogs here in the Nutmeg State. That’s right, these remarkable, petite beings have the unique ability to live through the experience of being frozen. According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection wildlife biologist Brian Hess, most other amphibians in the state must burrow deep beneath the freezing line to hibernate over winter, but the tree frog is different. Tree frogs have a high concentration of sugar glucose in their cells, which prevents the cells from completely freezing, allowing them to never completely freeze. Once winter is over, these amazing natural enigmas get to work “thawing” from the inside out and set out to find a mate.
“They are very unique in their ability to freeze and unfreeze,” said Hess, who explained that the species, although Connecticut’s most abundant frogs, is currently in decline due to loss of habitat. Tree frogs need vernal pools to survive, and due to what Hess calls “the systematic change of how the landscape in Connecticut is being utilized,” the tree frogs are losing more and more of their essential habitat all the time.
Besides being able to freeze and unfreeze, these smarmy amphibians are best known for their noisy pre-spring songs. If one didn’t know better, they may mistake the crackly call of the tree frog as a frantic songbird, however, it’s just the frogs’ mating call and it alerts New Englanders to the welcomed end of winter.
These one and a half to three-inch frogs are an important part of Connecticut’s landscape, with their pinkish brown skin, dark brown face mask and white bellies. Their eggs are a principal part of the food web. These eggs are attached to submerged twigs in shallow water and vernal pools and besides furthering the species survival, they act as an important food source for other amphibians, as well as birds.
In addition, the tree frogs are a vital part of the state’s environment because their main diet is insects, slugs and earthworms, which helps keep the numbers, of these sometimes-pesky inhabitants, in check.
Beginning now and lasting into April is the tree frogs mating season. Females lay up to 2,000 eggs, in a gelatinous sac, which will hatch tadpoles within three weeks. Over the next two to four weeks the tadpoles will absorb their tails and become full-fledged frogs. They enjoy living solitary lives and are happy to rest and repeat their amazing journeys again next year. So, if you are walking or hiking in the many and varied woods of Connecticut over the next few weeks, listen for the tree frogs’ ruckus, you’ll know what it means!