Order Anura
Frogs and Toads


Family Hylidae - Treefrogs


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Acris crepitans
Acris crepitans Baird - Northern Cricket Frog

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Description: This species is a small hylid whose adult head-body length varies from 1.6 to 3.8 cm. Dorsal ground color is highly variable and ranges from light gray to dark brown. A dorsal median green stripe may extend from head to rump. Snout is blunt and a dark triangle usually occurs between the eyes. A dark longitudinal stripe with ragged edges is present on rear of thigh. There is typically a pair of prominent anal warts. Tips of toes are only slightly expanded. Fourth toe on hind foot has 1.5 to 2 phalanges free of webbing.

Distribution and Habitat: Acris crepitans is known to occur throughout most of Tennessee, but, based on current data, may be absent from the northeastern corner of the state. Also, the species is probably absent from elevations above 335 m in the Great Smoky Mountains (Huheey and Stupka, 1967). The northern cricket frog is most often found near permanent bodies of water such as ponds, reservoirs, sloughs, and streams.

Taxonomy: Two subspecies have been listed from Tennessee. According to Conant and Collins (1991), A. c. crepitans ranges in the southeastern two-thirds of Tennessee, while A. c. blanchardi Harper occupies the northwestern one-third.


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Acris gryllus
Acris gryllus Le Conte - Southern Cricket Frog

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Description: Acris gryllus is a small frog very similar to A. crepitans. Head-body length for adults ranges from 1.6 to 3.2 cm. Dorsal ground color varies from gray to almost black. A dorsal median green, yellow, or brown stripe may extend from head to rump. As compared to A. crepitans, the snout of A. gryllus is more pointed and the body more slender. A dark triangle may occur between the eyes. A distinct dark longitudinal stripe with smooth edges is present on rear of thigh. Scattered warts in anal region, but no prominent pair of warts near vent. Tips of toes are only slightly expanded. Fourth toe on hind foot has at least 2.5 phalanges free of webbing.

Distribution and Habitat: The southern cricket frog is known from five counties in extreme southwestern Tennessee. Like A. crepitans, A. gryllus occurs near permanent aquatic sites and may occur sympatrically with A. crepitans. However, A. gryllus may also utilize temporary pools. Norton and Harvey (1975) noted that where they occurred together, A. crepitans was usually found near the shoreline of a reservoir while A. gryllus typically occurred in well-drained areas and near roadside pools.

Taxonomy: As mapped by Conant and Collins (1991), only the nominate subspecies occurs in Tennessee. Mount (1975) indicated hybridization with A. crepitans in Alabama. No evidence of hybridization has been reported from Tennessee populations.


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Hyla avivoca
Hyla avivoca Viosca - Bird-Voiced Treefrog

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Description: Hyla avivoca is a typical treefrog, with ends of digits expanded into adhesive discs. Head-body length in mature specimens ranges from 2.8 to 4.4 cm. Dorsal ground color may be green, various shades of gray, or nearly black. A dark, irregularly shaped blotch is usually present on dorsum. Dark markings are usually present between the eyes, and limbs are usually marked with dark crossbars. A small, quadrangular light spot is present on each upper jaw below the eyes. Dorsal surface of skin is mostly smooth. Inner surfaces of thighs are washed with light green or pale yellow.

Distribution and Habitat: The bird-voiced treefrog is known from the Coastal Plain of West Tennessee and along the lower Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee to near Ashland City. Based on a preserved specimen, Dunn (1927a) reported H. phaeocrypta Cope from Nashville. The specimen was sent to the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) and has apparently been lost. Before Viosca (1928) described H. avivoca, H. phaeocrypta was the name applied to what are now known as two species, H. avivoca and H. versicolor. Thus, Dunn's record from Nashville remains questionable. In Tennessee, this hylid occurs in bottomland sloughs and swamps along major rivers and large creeks. It is especially abundant around Reelfoot Lake.

Taxonomy: Only the nominate subspecies occurs in Tennessee (Smith, 1966). Mount (1975) and, to a lesser degree, Smith (1966) question the validity of subspecific designations for this species. Conant and Collins (1991) did not recognize subspecies.


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Hyla cinerea
Hyla cinerea (Schneider) - Green Treefrog

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Description: Adults range from 3.2 to 5.7 cm in head-body length. Tips of toes are expanded to form adhesive discs. Dorsal surface is smooth. Dorsal color ranges from light to dark green and may have a few scattered small gold flecks. A lateral, sharply defined light stripe (usually white or cream) extends from front of upper lip to about mid-body. Body form is slender.

Distribution and Habitat: The green treefrog inhabits bottomland swamps and sloughs, primarily in the Coastal Plain of West Tennessee where it is especially common around Reelfoot Lake. Hyla cinerea and H. gratiosa have often been confused in literature reports from Tennessee. Jacob (1980) provided a new distribution record for H. gratiosa based on a Hardeman County specimen in the Memphis State University Museum of Zoology (No. A2142) that was originally labeled and reported by Norton and Harvey (1975) as H. cinerea. Burt (1938) reported H. cinerea from Clarksville, Montgomery County, citing a specimen taken by Howell in 1910 that was deposited in the United States National Museum (USNM) (Burt,1937). Our study of USNM holdings and catalogue listings revealed an individual (No. 48194) of H. gratiosa, collected at Clarksville in 1910, that was incorrectly listed as H. cinerea. Thus Burt's (1938) record is probably invalid. Another museum specimen of H. cinerea (Illinois State Natural History Survey No. 9527) supposedly from Montgomery County is correctly identified; however, the locality data are suspect. According to the INHS catalogue, this specimen was taken near Clarksville during the summer of 1960 by Floyd Ford of Austin Peay State University. Dr. Ford, now deceased, was questioned by Floyd Scott about this record. According to Scott, Dr. Ford did not recall where he collected the specimen. However, he did recall conducting fieldwork at Reelfoot Lake during the summer of 1960 and believed the specimen was probably taken there. Scott has nearly 30 years of field experience in Montgomery County and has never observed H. cinerea there. However, he and a colleague (Scott and Koons, 1993) recently reported the species along the eastern shore of Kentucky Lake in nearby Stewart County. Gentry (1955-1956) reported H. cinerea from temporary sinkhole lakes in Warren County. However, considering the close similarity between H. cinerea and H. gratiosa and that subsequently only H. gratiosa has been documented in Warren and adjacent counties, it seems likely that Gentry's record actually represents H. gratiosa.

Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized (Conant and Collins, 1991). Hybridization with H. gratiosa has been reported in Florida by Lee (1968) and in Alabama by Mount (1975). No evidence of this hybrid cross was observed in Tennessee.


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Hyla gratiosa
Hyla gratiosa Le Conte - Barking Treefrog

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Description:Hyla gratiosa is sometimes confused with H. cinerea. Adult head-body length ranges from 5.1 to 6.7 cm. Tips of toes are expanded into adhesive discs. Dorsal surface is more rugose and body form stockier than in H. cinerea. Dorsal ground color ranges from light to dark green. Round dark dorsal spots may be distinct or barely detectable, and are often lost in preservative. A lateral light line may extend from front of upper lip to mid-body but, in contrast to H. cinerea, its borders are broken and irregular.

Distribution and Habitat: In Tennessee, the distribution and habitat requirements of H. gratiosa are poorly known. The species is currently known from only three possibly disjunct geographic units. Jacob (1980), Heineke and Heineke (1984), Miller and Campbell (1995), and Alan Peterson (pers. comm.) reported specimens from the Coastal Plain in West Tennessee. Jacob's record from Hardeman County was based on a specimen taken by Norton (1971) and incorrectly identified as H. cinerea by Norton and Harvey (1975). Heineke and Heineke found a specimen on a patio in suburban Bartlett, Shelby County. Miller and Campbell found the species in Carroll County and Peterson's daughters found a specimen on a wall outside their house in Chester County. Coastal Plain populations are tentatively considered continuous with those from northwestern Alabama (Mount, 1975). The presence of H. gratiosa in limestone sinkponds on the Pennyroyal Plain (Western Highland Rim) of north-central Tennessee has been well documented by Scott and Harker (1968), Scott and Snyder (1967, 1968), and VanNorman and Scott (1987). VanNorman's and Scott's study indicates that populations of H. gratiosa in north-central Tennessee and south-central Kentucky form a continuous geographic unit that is probably disjunct from the southern part of the species' range. Rossman (1958) and Jordan and Howard (1990) reported the species from two localities in White County. These localities are near the transition from Eastern Highland Rim to Cumberland Plateau. Miller and Miller (1992) and Miller, Casey, and Pritts (1993) discovered barking treefrogs on the Eastern Highland rim in Warren County. On the Cumberland Plateau, populations are known from upland swamps and strip-mine ponds in Van Buren County and from a limestone sinkpond in Franklin County. These Cumberland Plateau and Eastern Highland Rim populations are regarded as continuous with those reported from northeastern Alabama by Mount (1975). The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (1994a) lists H. gratiosa as a species in need of management.

Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized (Caldwell, 1982).


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Hyla versicolor and Hyla chrysoscelis
Hyla versicolor Le Conte - Gray Treefrog
Hyla chrysoscelis Cope - Cope's Gray Treefrog

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Description:Because these two species cannot be reliably separated based on external morphology, and the range of each has not been fully determined in Tennessee, they are treated here as a sibling species pair. In addition, members of this species pair are also easily confused with H. avivoca. The following characteristics are shared by both members of the species pair. Adult head-body lengths range from 3.2 to 5.1 cm. Tips of toes have adhesive discs. Dorsal ground color varies from light gray or light green to dark brown. Large dark blotches of irregular size and shape may occur on dorsum. Limbs are usually marked with dark crossbars. A quadrangular light spot is present on the upper jaw below the eyes. Dorsal skin surface is more rugose than in H. avivoca, and the inner surfaces of thighs are washed with bright yellow or orange (in contrast to the greenish or pale yellowish present in H. avivoca).

Distribution and Habitat: The composite range of the species pair is statewide. Most literature references and museum specimens fail to distinguish the two species. However, recent studies have begun to provide specific data. Burkett (1989) provided tentative distribution maps for both species indicating H. chrysoscelis occurs statewide, while H. versicolor has a very limited, disjunct distribution that includes small areas in extreme southwestern and northeastern Tennessee. Based on nucleoli counts, he identified H. chrysoscelis from Bledsoe, Cheatham, Chester, Crockett, Davidson, Dickson, Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton, Hardeman, Hardin, Knox, Lewis, Marion, McMinn, Monroe, Montgomery, Obion, Perry, Pickett, Polk, Robertson, Stewart, Van Buren, and White counties. Based on call rate, he also identified H. chrysoscelis from McNairy and Shelby counties. Other authors have verified H. chrysoscelis from Reelfoot Lake (Bushnell et al., 1939; Wasserman, 1970), Cumberland and Wilson counties (Wiley, 1982), Warren County (Miller, 1991), and Shelby County (Ritke and Beck, 1991). The most recent study of the species complex (Pritts, 1995) examined chromosome squashes prepared from samples of tadpoles taken in 18 Middle Tennessee counties (Bedford, Cannon, Coffee, Davidson, DeKalb, Franklin, Giles, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Marshall, Maury, Moore, Robertson, Rutherford, Trousdale, Williamson, and Wilson). All populations studied had the 2n = 24 chromosome number of H. chrysoscelis. None exhibited the chromosome number characteristic of H. versicolor (4n = 48) or H. chrysoscelis X H. versicolor hybrids (3n = 36). Currently, H. versicolor has only been verified from Shelby County (Ritke et al., 1988; Ritke and Beck, 1991). Its presence at high elevations in northeastern Tennessee is based on speculation (Burkett, 1989). During this study, individuals (not verified to species, but probably H. chrysoscelis) were observed in a wide variety of aquatic habitats in both woodland and open areas. Breeding was observed in swamps, small ponds along the edges of large reservoirs, and in flooded fields and roadside ditches. Ritke and Beck (1991) noted that H. versicolor seemed to prefer bottomland as opposed to upland habitats. Individuals not verified to species have been reported from above 1650 m in the mountains of extreme eastern Tennessee (Mathews and Echternacht, 1984).

Taxonomy: Based on breeding experiments that revealed a high degree of incompatibility between the two species and the existence of different mating call trill rates, Johnson (1966) recognized H. chrysoscelis as a cryptic species. Johnson described a fast trill rate for the mating call of H. chrysoscelis and a slower trill rate for H. versicolor. Later studies have reinforced Johnson's conclusions. Additional characters found useful in separating the two species include chromosome number, cell size, and cell nucleus size and composition. Bogart and Wasserman (1972) showed that H. versicolor is tetraploid (4n = 48) while H. chrysoscelis is diploid (2n = 24). They also noted that blood and sperm cells were larger in H. versicolor. Green (1984) reported larger epidermal cells in the toe pads of H. versicolor. The cell nuclei of H. versicolor were found to be larger and contain more nucleoli than the nuclei of H. chrysoscelis (Cash and Bogart, 1978).


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Pseudacris brachyphona
Pseudacris brachyphona (Cope) - Mountain Chorus Frog

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Description: The mountain chorus frog is a small stocky hylid, with an adult head-body length of 2.5 to 3.2 cm. Toe tips are slightly expanded to form adhesive discs. Dorsal ground color is usually brown or gray. A dark triangle typically occurs between the eyes. Dark bars on dorsum may form a reverse parenthesis or H-shaped pattern, but these markings may be broken into irregularly shaped spots or be completely absent. A light stripe is present on the upper lip.

Distribution and Habitat: This small hylid is seldom encountered except during its early spring breeding season. On the Cumberland Plateau, P. brachyphona and Bufo americanus often utilize the same breeding sites. Breeding activity typically occurs in wooded seepage pools, shallow flooded ditches along roads and railroads, small puddles, and shallow ponds. In Tennessee, the mountain chorus frog is known from the Cumberland Mountains, Cumberland Plateau, and Blue Ridge Mountains in extreme northeastern and southeastern Tennessee.

Taxonomy: Hoffman (1980) did not recognize any subspecific variation in this species.


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Pseudacris crucifer
Pseudacris crucifer (Wied) - Spring Peeper

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Description: The spring peeper is a small hylid, with an average adult head-body length of 1.9 to 3.2 cm. Tips of toes possess adhesive discs. Dorsal skin surface is smooth. Dorsal ground color ranges from light tan with a pinkish tinge to dark brown. Distinct dark brown markings in the form of an X are usually present on dorsum, and a dark transverse bar is typically present between the eyes.

Distribution and Habitat: Pseudacris crucifer is an early spring breeder that occurs statewide. In Tennessee, the species is very common near almost any type of woodland or brushland aquatic habitat, and breeding individuals especially favor sites bordered by dense vegetation. The species does not appear to be limited by elevation in Tennessee and has been reported from above 1650 m in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Mathews and Echternacht, 1984).

Taxonomy: Conant and Collins (1991) considered all populations in Tennessee as P. c. crucifer.


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Pseudacris triseriata
Pseudacris triseriata (Wied) - Upland Chorus Frog

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Description: This species is similar in size to P. brachyphona, but is more slender. Mature individuals have head-body lengths ranging from 1.9 to 3.5 cm. Toe tips are slightly expanded to form adhesive discs. Light stripe is present on upper lip. A lateral dark line originates on snout and extends through the eye to the groin. Dorsal ground color varies from gray to dark brown. A dark triangle generally occurs between the eyes. Dorsal markings are variable but usually consist of one mid-dorsal and two lateral dark stripes.

Distribution and Habitat: Pseudacris triseriata occurs statewide and occupies woodland and openland habitats that provide suitable breeding sites. Preferred breeding sites include shallow water ponds, flooded woodlands and pastures, and roadside ditches.

Taxonomy: Of the four subspecies of P. triseriata recognized by Conant and Collins (1991), only P. t. feriarum (Baird) occurs in Tennessee. Based on electrophoretic, morphological, and call analyses, Pseudacris t. feriarum is considered by some (Ralin, 1970; Hedges, 1986; Platz and Forester, 1988) as a distinct species.



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