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Cope's gray treefrog

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Cope's gray treefrog
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Hylidae
Genus: Dryophytes
D. chrysoscelis
Binomial name
Dryophytes chrysoscelis
(Cope, 1880)
  • Hyla chrysoscelis Cope, 1880

Cope's gray treefrog[2] (Dryophytes chrysoscelis) is a species of treefrog found in the United States and Canada. It is almost indistinguishable from the gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor), and shares much of its geographic range. Both species are variable in color, mottled gray to gray-green, resembling the bark of trees. These are treefrogs of woodland habitats, though they will sometimes travel into more open areas to reach a breeding pond. The only readily noticeable difference between the two species is the mating call — Cope's has a faster-paced and slightly higher-pitched call than D. versicolor. In addition, D. chrysoscelis is reported to be slightly smaller, more arboreal, and more tolerant of dry conditions than D. versicolor.[3]


Edward Drinker Cope described the species in 1880. The specific name, chrysoscelis, is from Greek chrysos, gold, and scelis, leg.[4]

Microscopic inspection of the chromosomes of D. chrysoscelis and D. versicolor reveals differences in chromosome number. D. chrysoscelis is diploid, having two complete sets of chromosomes, the usual condition in vertebrates. D. versicolor is tetraploid, having double the usual number of chromosomes. Generally, D. versicolor is believed to have evolved from D. chrysoscelis in the last major ice age, when areas of extremely low temperatures divided populations. Despite currently sharing habitat, the two species generally do not interbreed.

D. chrysoscelis is known to be largely intersterile with D. versicolor but there may be a limited amount of interfertility in sympatry. To enforce speciation there may be unknown mechanisms of reinforcement deployed between these species and further research may be fruitful.[5]


Showing variation in color

Both D. chrysoscelis and D. versicolor have black-marked bright orange to yellow patches on their hind legs, which distinguishes them from other treefrogs, such as D. avivoca.[3] The bright-yellow pattern is normally hidden, but exposed when the frog leaps. This "flash pattern" likely serves to startle a predator as the frog makes its escape.[6] The pattern and color variations of skin for this species will change depending on the environment they are found in.[7] Similar hidden bright patterns are common in various Lepidoptera, for instance moths of the genus Catocala.[8] Both species of gray treefrogs are slightly sexually dimorphic. Males have black or gray throats in the breeding season, while the throats of the females are lighter.[9] Usually, the younger frogs in this species will often be seen more with the greenish color throughout the breeding seasons. As they age they will lose the greenish color and move towards the distinct gray color. [10]

D. chrysoscelis male showing black throat

Skin secretions from this species may be irritating or toxic to mouth, eyes, other mucous membranes.[11]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The range of D. chrysoscelis is more southerly; it is apparently the species found in the lower elevation Piedmont and Coastal Plain of Virginia and the Carolinas. In those areas, D. versicolor may be present only in the Appalachians.[3] While this species is most abundant in the southeast, it can be found as far north as Manitoba. D. chrysoscelis has also been observed to practice freeze tolerance in a lab setting, which could help it survive in cold climates.[12] These frogs are one of the very few that can mobilize glycerol as a cryoprotectant. Glycerol production is low when the temperature is warmer, but when it gets colder, the glycerol in the body is rapidly produced.[13] When studying ice concentration of overwintering frogs, 40-50% of total body water was frozen.[14] Studies have revealed that Cope's gray treefrog could be more resilient to climate change in the long-term, though populations may suffer short-term drawbacks.[15] Either way, distribution will hopefully change little in the long-term because of this. They prefer to perch on pipes located along the edges of wetlands and close to trees, which suggests that the terrestrial habitat surrounding wetlands is an important component of the species habitat.[16] The bird-voiced treefrog, D. avivoca, is similar to D. chrysoscelis and D. versicolor, but is smaller (25–50 mm in length vs 32–62 mm for the gray treefrog).


Metamorphs are typically green
Male calling.

In the Southeastern United States, Cope's gray treefrog breeds and calls from May to August. Isolated males start calling from woodland areas during warm weather a week or more before migrating to temporary ponds to breed. There they form aggregations (choruses) and call together. Chorusing is most frequent at night, but individuals often call during daytime in response to thunder or other loud noises. These individual calls are produced at high sound pressure levels (SPLs) reaching 85 to 90 dB and sustained noise levels in choruses commonly range between 70 and 80 dB SPL.[17] Female treefrogs have been found to be able to differentiate calls at scales of up to a few decibels.[18] Females prefer calls with average frequencies over calls with frequencies that were 2 or 3 semitones lower than the population mean.[19] Eggs are laid in batches of 10 to 40 on the surfaces of shallow ponds and other small bodies of water. These temporary bodies of water usually lack fish, and females preferentially lay their eggs in water bodies that lack fish or other predatory vertebrates and have lower desiccation risk.[20][21][22] Eggs hatch in about five days and metamorphosis takes place at about 45–65 days.[3][9][23]

The diet of Cope's gray treefrog primarily consists of insects such as moths, mites, spiders, plant lice, and harvestmen. Snails have also been observed as a food source. Like most frogs, Dryophytes chrysocelis is an opportunistic feeder and may also eat smaller frogs, including other treefrogs.[24] Once the breeding season is over, Cope's gray treefrogs will forage continuously until winter.[25]

Cope's gray treefrog exhibits freeze tolerance.[26] Dryophytes chrysoscelis is capable of surviving temperatures as low as −8 °C (18 °F).[27] They can withstand the physiological challenges of corporeal freezing, by accumulating cryoprotective compounds of hepatic origin, including glycerol, urea, and glucose.[28]


  1. ^ IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (2022). "Dryophytes chrysoscelis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2022: e.T55448A196334128. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2022-1.RLTS.T55448A196334128.en. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  2. ^ Hyla chrysoscelis, Amphibian Species of the World 5.6
  3. ^ a b c d Martof, B. S., et al. (1980). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4252-4.
  4. ^ Family Group Names in Diptera Archived 2008-04-11 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Noor, Mohamed A F (1999). "Reinforcement and other consequences of sympatry". Heredity. 83 (5). The Genetics Society (Nature): 503–508. doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6886320. ISSN 0018-067X. PMID 10620021.
  6. ^ Tesler, P. Exploratorium The Amazing, Adaptable Frog. The Exploratorium. San Francisco.
  7. ^ Bogart, James P.; Jaslow, Alan P. (1979). Distribution and call parameters of Hyla chrysoscelis and Hyla versicolor in Michigan. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.52057. ISBN 0-88854-229-1.
  8. ^ Sargent. (1969). A suggestion regarding hindwing diversity among moths of the genus Catocala OF (Noctuidae). Archived 2007-03-13 at the Wayback Machine Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 23: 261-264.
  9. ^ a b Tyning, T. F. (1990). A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-81719-8.
  10. ^ Roseman, Kimberly (2017). "The Utility of Hyla squirrella Microsatellite DNA Markers for Population Genetic Studies of Hyla versicolor and Hyla chrysoscelis". Western Illinois University ProQuest Dissertations. ProQuest 1933027058.
  11. ^ "Species profile: Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)". Savannah River Ecology Laboratory - University of Georgia.
  12. ^ Costanzo, Jon (May 1, 1992). "Freeze Tolerance as an Overwintering Adaptation in Cope's Grey Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)". Copeia. 1992 (2): 565–569. doi:10.2307/1446222. JSTOR 1446222.
  13. ^ Amarl M. C. F. 2018
  14. ^ Costanzo, Jon P.; Wright, Michael F.; Lee, Richard E. (1992). "Freeze Tolerance as an Overwintering Adaptation in Cope's Grey Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)". Copeia. 1992 (2): 565–569. doi:10.2307/1446222. ISSN 0045-8511. JSTOR 1446222.
  15. ^ Litmer, Allison; Murray, Christopher (2020). "ritical Thermal Capacities of Hyla chrysoscelis in Relation to Season". Journal of Herpetology. 54 (4): 413–417. doi:10.1670/19-124.
  16. ^ Pittman; Jendrek, A.L; Price, S.; Dorcas, M.E (2008). "Habitat Selection and Site Fidelity of Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) at the Aquatic-Terrestrial Ecotone". Journal of Herpetology. 42 (2): 378–385. doi:10.1670/07-1702.1. S2CID 86035585.
  17. ^ Lee, N.; Ward, J. L.; Vélez, A.; Micheyl, C.; Bee, M. A. (2017). "Frogs exploit statistical regularities in noisy acoustic scenes to solve cocktail-party-like problems". Current Biology. 27 (5): 743–750. Bibcode:2017CBio...27..743L. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.01.031. PMC 5340627. PMID 28238657.
  18. ^ Bee, Mark A.; Vélez, Alejandro; Forester, James D. (2012-05-01). "Sound level discrimination by gray treefrogs in the presence and absence of chorus-shaped noise". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 131 (5): 4188–4195. Bibcode:2012ASAJ..131.4188B. doi:10.1121/1.3699271. ISSN 0001-4966. PMC 3356323. PMID 22559390.
  19. ^ Schrode, K. M.; Ward, J. L.; Vélez, A.; Bee, M. A. (2012). "Female preferences for spectral call properties in the western genetic lineage of Cope's gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 66 (12): 1595–1606. doi:10.1007/s00265-012-1413-5. PMC 3564599. PMID 24496093.
  20. ^ Resetarits, Jr., William J. (1989). "Choice of oviposition site by Hyla chrysoscelis: role of predators and competitors". Ecology. 70 (1): 220–228. Bibcode:1989Ecol...70..220R. doi:10.2307/1938428. JSTOR 1938428.
  21. ^ Pintar, Matthew R.; Resetarits, Jr., William J. (2017). "Out with the old, in with the new: oviposition preference matches larval success in Cope's gray treefrog, Hyla chrysoscelis" (PDF). Journal of Herpetology. 51 (2): 186–189. doi:10.1670/16-019. S2CID 53633353.
  22. ^ Pintar, Matthew R.; Resetarits, Jr., William J. (2017). "Relative predation risk and risk of desiccation co-determine oviposition preferences in Cope's gray treefrog, Hyla chrysoscelis". Oecologia. 184 (2): 423–430. Bibcode:2017Oecol.184..423P. doi:10.1007/s00442-017-3875-7. PMID 28470466. S2CID 2743867.
  23. ^ Rubio, M. Atlanta's Backyard Herps. Accessed 2 June 2013.
  24. ^ Conant, Roger (1975). A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Isabelle Hunt Conant ([2d ed.] ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-19979-4. OCLC 1423604.
  25. ^ Ritke, M. E.; Babb, J. G.; Ritke, M. K. (1992). "Temporal patterns of reproductive activity in the gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)". Journal of Herpetology. 26 (1): 107–111. doi:10.2307/1565039. JSTOR 1565039.
  26. ^ Ward, J. L.; Love, E. K.; Vélez, A.; Buerkle, N. P.; O'Bryan, L. R.; Bee, M. A. (2013). "Multitasking males and multiplicative females: dynamic signalling and receiver preferences in Cope's grey treefrog". Animal Behaviour. 86 (2): 231–243. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.05.016.
  27. ^ Adaptations of Frogs to Survive Freezing
  28. ^ do Amaral, M. C. F.; Frisbie, J.; Crum, R. J.; Goldstein, D. L.; Krane, C. M. (2020). "Hepatic transcriptome of the freeze-tolerant Cope's gray treefrog, Dryophytes chrysoscelis: responses to cold acclimation and freezing". BMC Genomics. 21 (1): 226. doi:10.1186/s12864-020-6602-4. PMC 7069055. PMID 32164545.


Further reading[edit]

  • Mary Hoff (March–April 2014). "Chirp, Croak, Snore". DNR. Minnesota Conservation Volunteer: 32.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ do Amaral, M. C. F., Frisbie, J., Goldstein, D. L., & Krane, C. M. (2018). The cryoprotectant system of Cope’s gray treefrog, Dryophytes chrysoscelis: responses to cold acclimation, freezing, and thawing. Journal of Comparative Physiology. B, Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology, 188(4), 611–621. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00360-018-1153-6