The striped chorus frog: a species to protect

Pseudacris triseriata
Credit: Biodôme de Montréal
Pseudacris triseriata
  • Pseudacris triseriata
  • Pseudacris triseriata
The striped chorus frog: a species to protect

What is that frog that regularly makes headlines in the Montréal area – the striped chorus frog? It’s a tiny frog less than four centimeters long whose fingers are equipped with little suckers.

In winter, during hibernation, blood circulation and respiration are slowed down as much as possible. An antifreeze prevents the striped chorus frog’s cells from bursting. It’s only when temperatures go up in the spring that those vital functions get back to normal.

Another surprising fact, when the flooded clearings and fields in Montérégie are sometimes still dotted with patches of snow, you can already hear the piercing cries sent out by the male striped chorus frog – a noise similar to the one made by a fingernail running over the teeth of a comb. That song serves to attract females, and signals the start of the breeding season.

Conquering the female from behind

During this period the males come out of their torpor, grow aggressive, and fight among themselves to earn the favors of a female. Attaching himself to the back of his new partner, the dominant male fends off his rivals with the help of his rear legs. Occasionally, life being difficult, he’ll lose his spot to a more aggressive male. When the female feels ready she lays her eggs, which the male fertilizes immediately.

Vulnerable little frog

Previously abundant in almost all of Montérégie, the striped chorus frog today has become very rare. Moreover, because of its small size, it often passes unnoticed except when it sings in the spring. How do we explain the population, still considerable 50 or so years ago in Québec, being so small now? Destruction of its habitat is largely responsible for the decline. Urban sprawl and intensive agriculture are also to blame. What makes the situation even more serious is that the only populations of striped chorus frogs known at this time are for the most part isolated from one another and consist of very few individuals.

In 2018 a number of scientific studies demonstrated that since the 1970s human beings have been responsible for the disappearance of at least 60 percent of animal and plant diversity on a global scale. Does the presence of a species as small as the striped chorus frog warrant our going to great lengths to protect it? To what point can we carry on neglecting biodiversity, as we’ve been doing for far too long?

It must be remembered that any new species extinction accelerates the loss of biodiversity on a worldwide scale. No species is without purpose. All have their importance. Small though it is, the striped chorus frog plays a key role in the food chain. Which is why it is essential to keep on protecting the forests and fields that make up its habitat.

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