Bio Facts: Tree Frog, Squirrel
Squirrel Tree Frog
Coastal Plain of the eastern USA from southeastern Virginia to Florida Keys, west to southeastern Texas. There are isolated occurrences in Mississippi, North Carolina, and northern Virginia. It is introduced on Grand Bahama Island and Little Bahama Bank.
Open woodlands, cypress heads, pasture lands, gardens, and in and around houses
Adult length: 1.5 in. (3.81 cm); coloration: green or varying shades of yellow or brown, sometimes with white or brown blotching.
Up to 8 years
In the wild, they eat insects and other small invertebrates; in the Zoo, they are fed crickets.
IUCN – Least Concern
Squirrel treefrogs are nocturnal and spend the daylight hours hiding under leaves, bark or logs.
Seasonal breeding times vary with latitude but usually coincide with spring and summer rains. The common name of “rain frog” reflects the tendency for this species to call during the day when rain is approaching, although males produce a raspy, squirrel-like call dissimilar from the breeding call.
Squirrel tree frogs breed from mid April to mid August in Alabama, early April to August in northern Florida, late March to early August in southern Florida, May–August in North Carolina, and March–October in Texas. In Florida, “Full choruses come with July electrical storms” (Carr, 1940a).
During the breeding season, females are summoned by the males with quick and harsh “quacks”. Once she finds a mate, a female begins amplexus and the eggs are laid. Females lay in excess of 950 eggs in shallow pools. They may be deposited singly or in clusters on the bottom or attached to vegetation. Time from deposition to hatching is 24–43 hours following ovulation. Tadpoles metamorphose after 40–50 days. Recently metamorphosed animals emerge from breeding pools and migrate to upland feeding sites and shelters.
Squirrel tree frogs will often aestivate communally. Carr (1940a) wrote, “Several are found in the same hollow tree or in the axils of the same royal or coco-palm petiole when numerous available and apparently identical retreats are unoccupied.” Squirrel tree frogs hibernate beneath bark of pine stumps and logs and decaying bark of trees. Adults may be seen on warm days in northern Florida during the winter; the lowest air temperature at which a juvenile squirrel tree frog was active measured 44°F (6.7˚C). They also noted that upon the approach of a cold front, frogs sought more secure shelters, such as under leaf mold and rotten bark.
Their small size, propensity for seeking small hiding places, and ability to change colors to match their background probably aid in avoiding visual predators.
Predators include ribbon snakes (Thamnophis sauritus), small mammals, birds, other frogs, other snakes, and aquatic invertebrates. Dragonfly naiads and water bugs (Lethocerus) eat tadpoles.
Hyla is Greek and means “belonging to the woods”. With the Latin -ella suffix after the English squirrel and makes it mean “little squirrel”.
Pague and Mitchell (1987) noted that some populations in urbanized areas of southeastern Virginia had become extirpated. However, Neill (1950a) and Delis et al. (1996) found squirrel treefrogs relatively abundant in urban areas of Augusta, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida, respectively. Although squirrel treefrogs are well known to cross roads at night in rains, the effect of road mortality on size and structure of urban populations is unknown.
This species has also been introduced to Grand Bahama in the Bahama Islands.
It is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category. There are no major pervasive threats. It adapts to moderate habitat disturbance.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
The squirrel tree frog has been part of our animal collection since at least 2001.