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Feature Creature - Common frog

Credits: Neil Aldridge

Now this feature creature is a familiar sight - it's the COMMON FROG. Throughout February and March these amphibians will be emerging from hibernation and making their way back to the ponds and lakes they were spawned in, ready to begin breeding.

Fantastic facts:

 

*Favourite foods: worms, insects, slugs and snails.     *Life span: up to 6 years.

 

*Enemies: herons, birds of prey, snakes and meat-eating mammals.

 

*Call: loud purring noise.     *Super power: underwater skin breathing.

 

*Latin name: Rana temporaria - 'temporary' because they're often only seen in one place during the spring, not appearing again until the next.

 

But what are these cold, wet creatures and what can they do? Common frogs are: 

 

Colonists

 

Despite being well known to return to their own spawning grounds to breed, common frogs are often the first amphibians to move into new ponds. This makes them a regular visitor to gardens and a good sign that your garden pond is a healthy one.

 

They are found all over the UK and have even been introduced to the Isle of Lewis, Shetland and Orkney Islands. Scientists can't agree about whether the common frog has always been part of the wildlife of Ireland or whether it had some human help to make it there.

 

Sleepers

 

You might think that a frozen garden pond is a pretty uncomfortable looking place to have a snooze. In fact, frogs hibernate in the mud and fallen leaves at the bottom of deep ponds during the winter and are able to survive even if the surface freezes.

 

Their bodies slow down when the temperature drops, meaning they don't need as much oxygen to survive as they would do otherwise. Instead they are able to absorb what they need through their skin. Amazing!

 

Cuddly

 

When the time comes to start thinking about breeding, male frogs make sure they get to the best spots as early as they can. They warn off other males with a low purring sound and wait for the females to arrive. Competition is fierce when they find one, so to make sure no other males get the girl they cling onto her back with a tight hug.

 

Males and females then spawn together like this, producing large clumps of frogspawn. Toad spawn is easily told apart as it is laid in long strings instead of clumps.

 

Road crossers

 

The urge to breed is strong. Hundreds of frogs make the journey to their favourite breeding places every year, often having to cross dangerous roads to get there. Some Wildlife Trusts help to set up special frog and toad crossings to see the travellers safely across the roads.