With the warm, wet weather last night, I visited the Cuyahoga Valley to see if any amphibians have gotten the message that spring is coming. Steiner Woods is still frozen, so the action at Windhover will lag behind the action in the Valley. After checking a few ponds for frogs calls and not hearing a single peep all night, I found a few wood frogs (left photo) and spring peepers (right) crossing a road.
These guys are usually the first sign of amphibian life each spring, and there’s a cool biological reason behind it. Unlike the spotted salamander, which deals with freezing temperatures by staying in burrows below the frost line, these frogs (as well as grey treefrogs) can actually freeze solid for extended periods with no ill effects! They do this by mobilizing large quantities of sugars to their cells that keep them liquid while the water outside the cells freezes. This allows them to overwinter closer to the surface and closer to ponds so they can start moving as soon as spring weather hits, while vernal cues won’t reach the salamanders until things are more thoroughly thawed. Freeze tolerance is a key adaptation allowing wood frogs to be widespread even in Alaska. The most freeze tolerant amphibian is the Siberian salamander, which may remain in this state of suspended animation for decades at a time.
More promising weather is on the way according to the 10 day forecast, so stay tuned.