Hyla cinerea (Schneider, 1799)
Ronald A. Brandon2
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. The range of green treefrogs
(Hyla cinerea) extends southward from the Chesapeake Bay region of
Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, then west
through most of Alabama and Mississippi, statewide in Louisiana, the eastern half of
Texas, and the Red River drainage in southeast Oklahoma. In the Mississippi River
drainage, their range extends north from Louisiana and Mississippi through floodplains in
southern and eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, and Kentucky, to extreme southeastern
Missouri and southern Illinois (Conant and Collins, 1998; Redmer and Brandon,
2003). Introduced populations occur in Puerto Rico (Schwartz and Thomas, 1975;
Rivero, 1978; Schwartz and Henderson, 1985, 1991; Hedges, 1996), Brownsville, Texas
(Conant, 1977b; Smith and Kohler, 1977), in central Missouri (Johnson, 1987), and perhaps
a coastal island in Florida (Smith et al., 1993). A population that was introduced
in east-central Kansas is now probably extirpated (Collins, 1993). There is
evidence of recent peripheral range expansion in Illinois (Redmer and Ballard, 1995;
Redmer et al., 1999), Missouri (Powell et al., 1995, 1996), and South Carolina (Snyder
and Platt, 1997; Platt et al., 1999).
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. There are few data on green treefrog
abundance, although there have been few localized reviews of population status.
Most authors have commented that they are generally common or locally abundant throughout
most of their range (Anderson et al., 1952; Liner, 1954, 1955; O.B. Goin, 1958; Smith,
1961; Bider, 1962; Dyrkacz, 1974; Ackerman, 1975; Mount, 1975; Ashton, 1976; Martof et
al., 1980; Bancroft et al., 1983; Gibbons, 1983; Johnson, 1987; Ashton and Ashton, 1988;
Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Gibbons and Semlitsch, 1991; Redmond and Scott, 1996; Lannoo,
1998d; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999a; Mitchell and Reay, 1999; Redmer et al., 1999).
There is one report of a localized population decline in Florida (Delis et al., 1996;
Dodd and Griffey, 2002).
3. Life History Features.
Reproduction is aquatic.
i. Breeding migrations. There are few data on this topic. Movements from
upland habitats into adjacent wetlands have been reported (O.B. Goin, 1958).
Roberts and Page (2003) report an instance of a male trying to dislodge an amplectant
ii. Breeding habitats. Most data on habitats are based upon adults captured
within, or adjacent to, breeding habitat. During the breeding season, adult habitats
are variously described as floating or emergent herbaceous vegetation, shrubs, or trees
around the margins of aquatic habitats including swamps, sloughs, marshes, ponds, and
lakes (Hurter, 1911; Wright, 1932; Carr, 1940a; Jobson, 1940; Cagle, 1942; Goin, 1943;
Bartsch, 1944; Neill, 1951a; Werler and McCallion, 1951; Anderson et al., 1952; Moulton,
1954a; Carr and Goin, 1955; Tinkle, 1959; Rossman, 1960; Smith, 1961; Lee, 1969a; Mount,
1975; Garton and Brandon, 1975; McDiarmid et al., 1983; Dundee and Rossman, 1989;
Mitchell and Miller, 1991; Scott and Koons, 1993a,b; Redmer et al., 1999).
i. Egg deposition sites. Oviposition takes place in association with floating mats
of vegetation, such as duckweed (Garton and Brandon, 1975; Mount, 1975; Turnipseed and
ii. Clutch size. Clutch sizes vary considerably, ranging from 478–1,061 (mean
= 700) in southern Illinois (Garton and Brandon, 1975); from 1,348–3,946 (mean =
2,152) in Arkansas (Trauth et al., 1990); and 275–1,160 (mean = 814) in Georgia
(Perrill and Daniel, 1983). Green treefrogs may spawn several times over the course
of a single prolonged breeding season (Perrill and Daniel, 1983), with minimum
fecundities (based on eggs counted from mutiple spawns of single females) calculated to
be from 1,088–3,272 (mean = 1,688). However, these authors may not have
counted all clutches produced by a single female, so actual fecundity may be
i. Length of larval stage. The larval period ranges from 24–45 d (Orton,
1947; Wright and Wright, 1949; Garton and Brandon, 1975; Turnipseed and Altig, 1975;
Blouin, 1991, 1992a,b; Blouin and Loeb, 1991).
ii. Larval requirements.
a. Food. Unknown.
b. Cover. Larval habitat has been reported by Garton and Brandon (1975), Redmer et
al. (1999), and Turnipseed and Altig (1975) as ponds with large areas of emergent
vegetation. Roth and Jackson (1987) conducted experiments in pools of three sizes
and found that tadpole survival was greatest in the smallest pools, which contained the
lowest natural densities of predatory insects.
iii. Larval polymorphisms. Tadpoles have been described by or included in keys
devised by several authors (Dickerson, 1906; Wright, 1929, 1932; Brimley, 1944; Morris,
1944; Altig, 1970; Cochran and Goin, 1970; Travis, 1981; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Redmer
et al., 1999). Tadpoles are 4.5–5.5 mm TL at hatching and grow to
approximately 60 mm before metamorphosis. Ontogenetic color change is continuous
until tadpoles reach Gosner (1960) stages 25 or 26, when light blotches fuse to form
interorbital and transverse body bands. After this, the tadpoles have a green body,
a yellow to buff venter, a yellow tail with dark mottling or reticulations, and distinct
yellow orbitonasal stripes. The yellow interorbital stripe present earlier in
development is sometimes retained, thus forming a triangle on the head. The tail
is long; the distinctly arched dorsal tail fin originates on the back of the body is
proportional in height to the ventral fin. Other external characteristics include
laterally bulging eyes, a dextral anus, and a sinistral spiracle.
iv. Features of metamorphosis. Tadpoles metamorphose within 28–44 d of
hatching (Wright and Wright, 1949; Garton and Brandon, 1975; Turnipseed and Altig,
v. Post-metamorphic migrations. At one site in southern Illinois, post-metamorphic
juveniles moved to upland habitats < 60 m from the breeding pond (Garton and Brandon,
1975). Elsewhere in southern Illinois, dispersing juveniles were found ≤ 0.5 km
from breeding ponds (Redmer et al., 1999). Some of those juveniles were found ≤
3 mo of the initiation of the breeding season (M.R., unpublished data).
Habitat. Juveniles are often found in emergent vegetation in and around breeding
ponds, though they may also migrate to adjacent uplands (Garton and Brandon, 1975; Redmer
et al., 1999).
Habitat. Green treefrogs are adaptable to a number of habitats, although sites are
typically associated with permanent bodies of water containing abundant emergent
vegetation. Reported aquatic habitats include swamps, sloughs, marshes, lakes, farm
ponds, sewage ponds, fish-farm ponds, flooded borrow pits, flooded sink-holes, and
ditches (Hurter, 1911; Wright, 1932; Carr, 1940a; Jobson, 1940; Cagle, 1942; Goin, 1943;
Bartsch, 1944; Babbit and Babbit, 1951; Neill, 1951a; Werler and McCallion, 1951;
Anderson et al., 1952; Carr and Goin, 1955; Tinkle, 1959; Rossman, 1960; Smith, 1961;
Lee, 1969a; R.L. Brown, 1974; Garton and Brandon, 1975; Mount, 1975; Turnipseed and
Altig, 1975; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Scott and Koons, 1993a,b; Phelps and Lancia, 1995;
Redmer et al., 1999). Green treefrogs are commonly reported from barrier islands
and other coastal areas where they apparently are tolerant of brackish water (Allen,
1932; Dunn, 1937; Oliver, 1955a; Neill, 1958a; Martof, 1963; Diener, 1965; Moore, 1976;
Mueller, 1985; Smith et al., 1993; Mitchell and Anderson, 1994). There are a number
of reports of refugia or hibernacula, including rock crevices, bird houses, and human
litter such as tin cans; green treefrogs are frequently found around human dwellings
(O.B. Goin, 1958; Tinkle, 1959; Grzimek, 1974; Garton and Brandon, 1975; Delnicki and
Bolen, 1977; McComb and Noble, 1981). PVC pipes placed as artificial refugia have
been used in efforts to sample this and other species of Hyla (Mouton et al.,
F. Home Range
Territories. Unknown, but adult males are known to defend calling sites (Garton and
Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Unknown, but studies of temperature and water
balance have emphasized thermoregulation (O.B. Goin, 1958; Freed, 1980b), body
temperatures (Brattstrom, 1963, 1968), cooling (Wygoda, 1988b), factors affecting
evaporative water loss (Wygoda, 1984, 1988a,b, 1989a,b; Wygoda and Williams, 1991; Wygoda
and Garman, 1993), fever (Kluger, 1977; Muchlinsky, 1985), thermal acclimation/tolerances
(Brattstrom, 1963; Layne and Romano, 1985; Blem et al., 1986; Layne et al., 1989),
tolerance of desiccation (Layne et al., 1989), and water absorption (Walker and Whitford,
1970). Ballinger and McKinney (1966) reported a lower lethal developmental
temperature of 20 ˚C.
Migrations. Unknown, but juveniles will disperse onto wooded hillsides and into
open fields (Bartsch, 1944; Garton and Brandon, 1975; Redmer et al., 1999).
(Hibernation). Captive specimens become lethargic, and movements are uncoordinated
at temperatures below 16 ˚C (M.R., unpublished data; for further information see
"Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication" above).
Associations/Exclusions. A number of authors have reported associations with other
species of anurans that reproduce in similar habitats, for example northern cricket frogs
(Acris crepitans), southern cricket frogs (A. gryllus), bird-voiced
treefrogs (Hyla avivoca), American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana), and
green frogs (R. clamitans; Wright, 1932; Cagle, 1942; Livezey and Johnson, 1948;
Wright and Wright, 1949; Peterson et al., 1952; O.B. Goin, 1958; Brown and Pierce, 1965;
Hardy, 1972; Garton and Brandon, 1975; Turnipseed and Altig, 1975; Moore, 1976; Trauth,
1992; Grimké and Jaeger, 1998; Redmer et al., 1999).
report on interspecific isolating mechanisms or their failure, producing hybridization,
between this and other hylids (Blair, 1958b; Mecham, 1960b, 1965; Littlejohn, 1961;
Pyburn and Kennedy, 1961; Kennedy, 1964; Lee, 1968a; Fortman and Altig, 1974; Gerhardt,
1974b; Oldham and Gerhardt, 1975; Pierce, 1975; Ralin, 1977b; Anderson and Moler, 1986;
Schlefer et al., 1986; Lamb and Avise, 1986, 1987; Lamb, 1987; Maxon et al., 1987; Lamb
et al., 1990; and Mable and Rye, 1992).
L. Age/Size at
Reproductive Maturity. Uncertain. Based on growth rates, several authors have
suggested that sexual maturity is reached in the second year of life (O.B. Goin, 1958;
Garton and Brandon, 1975). Other demographic information is based primarily upon
studies of growth (O.B. Goin, 1958; Garton and Brandon, 1975; Blouin, 1991, 1992a,b).
Behavior. Their postmetamorphic diet includes a variety of arthropods and other
small invertebrates (Haber, 1926; Kilby, 1945; Oliver, 1955a; R.L. Brown, 1974; Freed,
1982a; Ritchie, 1982). Green treefrogs are visually-oriented predators that respond
to prey size, shape, and speed (Deban and Nishikawa, 1992; Freed, 1980a,b, 1982a,b, 1988;
and Hueey, 1980). Leips and Travis (1994) studied the effects of food availability
on newly metamorphosed animals.
Reported by a number of authors to consist of a variety of vertebrates, including several
species of snakes and wading birds, and invertebrates, including spiders (Wright, 1932;
Wright and Wright, 1949; Bowers, 1966; Jenni, 1969; Garton and Brandon, 1975; Schardien
and Jackson, 1982; Lockley, 1990; Bishop and Farrell, 1994; Mitchell, 1994a; Palmer and
mechanisms. Behavioral defense by adults was reported by Marchison and Anderson
(1976). There is some evidence that green treefrog tadpoles are more unpalatable to
predatory fishes than are tadpoles of related barking treefrogs (H.
gratiosa; Blouin, 1990).
Unknown, but the effects of environmental contaminants on larval development and behavior
have been studied (Webber and Cochran, 1984; Mahaney, 1994). For example, Jung and
Jagoe (1995) demonstrated that aluminum, often present in elevated concentrations in
acidifed waters, can have lethal or non-lethal effects. Among the non-lethal
effects, exposed tadpoles demonstrate slower swimming speeds, which increases their
vulnerability to predators. The distribution of radiocesium in a contaminated
population has also been studied (Dapson and Kaplan, 1975).
Endoparasites reported from this species include several helminths (Steiner, 1924;
Brooks, 1979), and a Basidobolus sp. (Okafor et al., 1984). Transmission
of a trypanosome to this species (by a dipteran) has been described (Johnson et al.,
1993). McKeever (1977) has observed mosquitoes preying on adults. Green
treefrogs may be beneficial to some agricultural crops because they are a known vector of
a blight (Colletotrichtum gloeosporioides) known to affect certain
vetch plants considered to be weeds (Yang and TeBeest, 1992; Yang et al., 1992).
4. Conservation. Though there have been few localized reviews of population
status, it is generally agreed that green treefrogs are common or locally abundant
throughout most of their range. There is one report of a localized population
decline in Florida, and reports of recent range expansion in Illinois, Missouri, and
South Carolina (see "Historical versus Current Distribution" and
"Historical versus Current Abundance," above). They are not protected
under any state or federal laws.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Chicago Field Office
1250 South Grove Avenue
2Ronald A. Brandon
Department of Zoology
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, Illinois 62901
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
Feedback or comments about this page.
Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on
amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2014. Berkeley, California:
(Accessed: Mar 10, 2014).
AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.