This past Sunday, my husband and I went for long hike in Harriman State Park in New York. In late March and early April, the sound of the spring peepers is deafening. But the other day we heard only one or two peepers. I did a little research to find out what happens to the peepers in the fall and winter. What exactly do they do from now until early spring?
Frogs and toads have evolved strategies to survive freezing temperatures. Wood frogs and spring peepers actually become a “frogsicle,” as Larry Lyons explains in his article, “All the Frogs Will Soon be Frogsicles” in the Niles (MI) Daily Star. The frogs will soon find a place under the leaf litter or in a crack in a log or rock to settle for their winter nap. They’ll slowly begin to freeze as soon as temperatures reach the freezing point. The frog’s blood stops flowing, its lungs, heart and muscles stop functioning, and ice fills the body cavity. As Niles writes, “We now have a frogsicle in suspended animation.”
About 65% of the frog is frozen. It manufactures large amounts of blood sugar that serve as anti-freeze, preventing ice damage to its organs. When spring temperatures are consistently above freezing, they begin to thaw out and break out in a chorus of frog calls (as mating season begins).
What about other frogs and toads? Toads dig a burrow under the frost line, where they go into a mild state of hibernation. Their metabolism slows down and they no longer need food or water. Aquatic frogs such as green frogs go into what’s called a state of torpor. They descend to oxygen rich deep water, find a hiding place, and don’t move around much until the spring comes.
Perhaps we are more like animals than we care to admit. I know I slow down in late fall and hibernate until spring!