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Listen to the love song of the frog

Sunday, March 15, 2009 | 7:07 p.m. CDT; updated 8:09 p.m. CDT, Sunday, March 15, 2009

What are the differences between toads and frogs?

Even though there are more similarities than differences, there are some basic physical distinctions.

Toads

  • dry, warty skin
  • no teeth
  • shorter hind legs than most frogs
  • hop or crawl
  • lay eggs in long, parallel strings

Frogs

  • smooth, wet skin
  • tiny teeth on both upper and lower jaws
  • jump or leap
  • lay eggs singly, in small clumps, in large masses, or as a film of eggs on the water surface


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COLUMBIA – Calls of the wild drew in nature lovers.

Nearly 25 people packed into the tiny basement classroom at the park office of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park to learn about frogs and toads, to hear them sing and to get a taste of the techniques professionals use to survey the amphibians.

Roxie Campbell, a Park Naturalist for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park hosted "A Frog's Serenade" .

She set the tone early by describing an incident where even she was surprised at how loud a group of Western chorus frogs could be. “It was a strange sensation,” Campbell said.

According to Campbell, only male frogs call and do so in an attempt to mate.

Even so, “nearly one-third of known amphibian species worldwide are experiencing a decline,” Campbell said. She said the threats these amphibians face come from habitat loss, water pollution, which is easily absorbed through their semi-permeable skin, climate change and even fungi.

“(Certain chemicals) act as estrogen in a frog's system. There have been observations of male frogs with female organs and a general increase in the number of female frogs in polluted environments,” said Campbell.

Campbell also said the fungi that attack some frogs are actually transmitted by pets that have been released into the wild, such as the African clawed frog. She thinks that it is better to kill foreign pet frogs that cannot be kept in captivity rather than releasing them into the wild.

Susan Galeota said, “I was interested in learning more about them. I know they are having some problems (species decline), and I would like to be able to identify them by sound.”

After the presentation, the group was taken out to the Grassland trailhead area of the park and shown how to identify the creatures by their calls, which noisily reverberate through the fields.

Everyone in the group was welcomed to stay and help conduct an official survey later in the evening.

“I was very pleased,” said Campbell. “We had around a dozen people stay to help us conduct the survey.”

While the park welcomes volunteers to help with the survey, to become a certified surveyor with the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, a person must pass what was described by several people at the serenade as a challenging test.

Retired physician Richard Torkelson of Weatherby Lake initially became interested in the program due to habitat alteration in his area. He recently passed his Amphibian Monitoring quiz and came to the event in preparation for his upcoming first survey. He practiced by downloading all of the frog calls onto his PDA and listening to them frequently.

 The next frog and toad survey to take place at Rock Bridge park has not yet been scheduled.


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