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Airdate: May 19, 1998
Scientist: Michael Klemens

Peepers: Spring

Peepers: Spring
Spring is mating season for these vociferous amphibians and their distinctive calls help to facilitate the process.

We're in the Great Swamp, just about two hours north of New York City, listening to the sounds of peepers - tiny frogs whose call is one of the signature sounds of spring here and in other wetlands areas throughout North and South America. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"After this rain like this, Peepers are just coming in in tremendous numbers. You can see the males all calling to attract the females. It's all the males that you're hearing right now.

Michael Klemens is a herpetologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"Occasionally you hear sort of a fluttery call. That's a male Peeper when he grabs another male and they make a release call which is sort of a fluttery noise."

The release call is given if a male frog happens to inadvertently grasp another male frog in a romantic embrace. Hearing that call, he'll unclasp his companion and keep searching for a female partner to mate with.

"There's not an internal fertilization. As the eggs are extruded from the female, the male fertilizes them. They will lay a small number of little eggs attached to grass stalks singly in small numbers. There'll be Peeper tadpoles in here for several months. Now here's a Peeper going in right there. See, right just below our feet one hopped in."

The spring peepers and the other amphibians are crucial members of the wetlands ecosystem, feeding on insects and being fed upon by other creatures. Pound for pound, there are more amphibians in these woods than any other vertebrates.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.