Acris gryllus (LeConte, 1825)
Southern Cricket Frog
John B. Jensen1
1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Southern cricket frogs (Acris gryllus) are found primarily below the Fall Line, in both the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains, from southeastern Virginia south and west to eastern Louisiana, including all of Florida (Mecham, 1964). Populations are also known above the Fall Line in the Cumberland Plateau and Ridge and Valley of Alabama (Mount, 1975), as well as the Piedmont of Georgia (Williamson and Moulis, 1994). Two subspecies are recognized: Florida cricket frogs (A. g. dorsalis), found in Florida and adjacent portions of Alabama and Georgia, and the larger Coastal Plain cricket frogs (A. g. gryllus), found throughout the remainder of the range (Conant and Collins, 1991). No changes in the distribution of either subspecies have been noted.
2. Historical versus Current Abundance. The naturalist J.D. Corrington (1929) noted that southern cricket frogs are “the most abundant amphibian in the [southeastern United States]. Each roadside pool or ditch contained numerous individuals and the swamps and marshes literally swarmed with them.” Deckert (1915) commented that they are “one of the commonest frogs.” Many regional guides have also indicated that this species is abundant (Martof et al., 1980; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Gibbons and Semlitsch, 1991; Wilson, 1995). More recently, however, there have been indications that southern cricket frogs may be declining locally. Means and Means (2000) found that the number of breeding populations of southern cricket frogs in the Munson Sand Hills of panhandle Florida occur at a much lower percentage on silviculture lands than in nearby native habitat. They hypothesize that elimination or severe alteration of the upland habitat, resulting from intensive soil disturbance, is the principal reason. This is corroborated by a 1996–'98 rare amphibian survey conducted at 444 sites on industrial forest lands in south Georgia, south Alabama, and north Florida (Wigley et al., 1999). This study revealed that ponds where southern cricket frogs were found had a substantially lower frequency of intensive site preparation and lower density of planted pines in pond edges and surrounding upland habitats than those ponds where this species was not detected.
3. Life History Features.
A. Breeding. Reproduction is aquatic.
i. Breeding migrations. The adult breeding and non-breeding habitats do not differ substantially, therefore true breeding migrations may not exist for this species. Southern cricket frogs typically breed February–October (Wright and Wright, 1949). Although southern cricket frogs may breed throughout the year in Florida, the peak of their breeding activity occurs April to autumn (Carr, 1940b; Einem and Ober, 1956). Mecham (1964) noted an April to early June breeding peak in Alabama. Surges in breeding activity are strongly correlated with periodic rain events (Turnipseed and Altig, 1975). Males call both day and night (Deckert, 1915; Mount, 1975).
ii. Breeding habitat. Nearly every type of freshwater habitat, both temporary and permanent, found within the range of southern cricket frogs has been indicated by one authority or more as suitable breeding habitat, including lake margins, rivers, creeks, sinkhole ponds, cypress ponds, open grassy ponds, bogs, marshes, Carolina bays, bottomland swamps, shallow pools, and roadside ditches (Wright and Wright, 1949; Mount, 1975; Martof et al., 1980; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Gibbons and Semlitsch, 1991). Southern cricket frogs have also been found breeding in interdunal pools within 18.3 m (20 yd) of the ocean (Neill, 1958a). Males call from mats of floating vegetation in the water or from protected areas along the shore (Mount, 1975). Breeding sites may or may not contain predatory fish (Gibbons and Semlitsch, 1991). In Louisiana and perhaps elsewhere, southern cricket frogs are typically associated with more acidic waters than sympatric northern cricket frogs (A. crepitans; Viosca, 1944).
i. Egg deposition sites. Eggs are attached to the stems of vegetation or stones or spread on the pond bottom (Wright and Wright, 1949; Mount, 1975).
ii. Clutch size. Eggs are laid singly (Wright, 1923) or in small clusters of 7–10, and each female may lay up to 250 eggs (Ashton and Ashton, 1988). Hatching occurs ≥ 4 d following oviposition, depending on the water temperature (Ashton and Ashton, 1988).
i. Length of larval stage. Typically 50–90 d (Wright and Wright, 1949), though possibly as quickly as 41 d (Ashton and Ashton, 1988). Southern cricket frogs transform after tadpoles reach 9–15 mm SVL (Wright and Wright, 1949).
ii. Larval requirements.
a. Food. Unknown, though tadpoles likely graze on algae.
b. Cover. Tadpoles are most readily captured in submerged and emergent vegetation, suggesting they use this microhabitat for cover and/or feeding.
iii. Larval polymorphisms. Unknown for this species.
iv. Features of metamorphosis. Metamorphosis occurs from April–October and newly metamorphosed animals are 9–15 mm SVL (Wright and Wright, 1949).
v. Post-metamorphic migrations. Unknown.
D. Juvenile Habitat. Unknown, but thought to be similar to adults.
E. Adult Habitat. Not known to differ substantially from breeding habitats (see “Breeding habitat” above). However, southern cricket frogs are occasionally observed in uplands quite distant from the nearest aquatic habitat (personal observations). In fact, Wright and Wright (1949) indicated that they are often terrestrial in meadows or wooded edges. Whether or not upland habitats are used substantially by this species other than as corridors between aquatic sites is unknown. The relatively few southern cricket frogs found at wetlands surrounded by intensive silviculture versus those surrounded by natural habitats or lower intensity silviculture (Wigley et al., 1999; Means and Means, 2000) may indicate that terrestrial habitats are important to some aspect of this species’ life history. Terrestrial foraging, noted by Ashton and Ashton (1988), may be one such aspect. Mount (1975) noted that above the Fall Line, southern cricket frogs are more often found associated with sandy soils. There is no information to indicate a difference in habitat characteristics between the sexes.
F. Home Range Size. Unknown.
G. Territories. Unknown.
H. Aestivation/Avoiding Dessication. Southern cricket frogs may be found year-round (Corrington, 1929; Mount, 1975) and breed during summer (Wright and Wright, 1949), suggesting that aestivation is unlikely.
I. Seasonal Migrations. Unknown.
J. Torpor (Hibernation). Fewer southern cricket frogs are seen during mid winter than at other times of the year, which may indicate that the majority of individuals hibernate (Corrington, 1939). However, animals in southern populations remain active, and perhaps breed, throughout the year (Wright and Wright, 1949; Mount, 1975).
K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Southern cricket frogs will occasionally hybridize with northern cricket frogs (Neill, 1954; Mount, 1975). Southern cricket frogs call and breed in association with many other anurans, including northern cricket frogs, American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana), southern leopard frogs (Rana sphenocephala), spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), barking treefrogs (Hyla gratiosa), Cope's gray treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis), and Fowler's toads (Bufo fowleri; Cahn, 1939), as well as oak toads (Bufo quercicus), southern toads (Bufo terrestris), pine woods treefrogs (Hyla femoralis), southern chorus frogs (Pseudacris nigrita), ornate chorus frogs (Pseudacris ornata), gopher frogs (Rana capito), pig frogs (Rana grylio), and carpenter frogs (Rana virgatipes; personal observations).
L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Males 15–29 mm SVL; females 16–33 mm (Wright and Wright, 1949).
M. Longevity. Unknown.
N. Feeding Behavior. Southern cricket frogs may forage a good distance from the water’s edge, especially during the day (Ashton and Ashton, 1988). Bayless (1969) examined the stomachs of southern cricket frogs and found a variety of arthropods, especially springtails, hymenopterans, spiders, dipterans, beetles, and homopterans.
O. Predators. Southern cricket frogs are commonly preyed upon by water and garter snakes, as well as by a large variety of aquatic predators such as other frogs, fishes, and birds (Ashton and Ashton, 1988). Fish predators include redfin pickerel (Esox americanus), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), and bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus; Ferguson et al., 1965). Pine woods littersnakes (Rhadinaea flavilata ) have been reported to “readily” eat southern cricket frogs (Allen, 1939).
P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Southern cricket frogs will make one or more long, erratic leaps to escape predation (Conant and Collins, 1991). They shun open water; following leaps into water they will immediately and quickly return back to shore (Mount, 1975). However, southern cricket frogs may attempt to elude detection by hiding in the debris on the pond bottom (Blem et al., 1978). They are also known to hop from the ground into bushes and back down again (Wright and Wright, 1949). Additionally, astronomical orientation may be used to avoid predation by fish (Ferguson et al., 1965).
Q. Diseases. Unknown.
R. Parasites. Unknown.
4. Conservation. Southern cricket frogs remain common throughout their range, although they may be declining locally. In the Munson Sand Hills region of panhandle Florida, there are lower numbers of breeding populations of southern cricket frogs on silviculture lands than in nearby native habitat; Means and Means (2000) hypothesize that elimination or severe alteration of the upland habitat, resulting from intensive soil disturbance, is the principal reason. A 1996–98 amphibian survey conducted on industrial forest lands in south Georgia, south Alabama, and north Florida (Wigley et al., 1999) corroborates Means and Means (2000) interpretation. Wigley et al. (1999) found that ponds with substantially higher frequencies of intensive site preparation and higher densities of planted pines along pond edges and in surrounding upland habitats had reduced numbers of southern cricket frogs.
1John B. Jensen
Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
116 Rum Creek Drive
Forsyth, Georgia 31029
Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.
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