Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

September 17, 2008

A Belligerent Fellow

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 8:16 pm

  It was by chance that I met up with a very belligerent fellow on a recent blustery day.  It was a sizable bullfrog who was out of his element but well within his dignity.  I was out on the trail when I met up with a human couple walking their dog. Spotting my camera, they informed me that there was a big old bullfrog on the path ahead and that it was ready for a portrait.  Spotting their dog, I assumed that the frog would have been frightened away by the pet, but I thanked them anyway and walked on without expecting a frog encounter.

  As I rounded the bend, I was concentrating on things above and failed to notice the thing below and directly in front of me. The object on the trail surprised me – especially given the fact that it was standing high and on all four legs. Here was the before mentioned bullfrog right where it had been left. The creature had no desire to move and was doing what it could in order to look intimidating.

  Intimidation is normally not a word associated with frogs unless you refer to their being intimidated by nearly everything else on earth.  Frogs are built to jump and swim.  When on land, they jump about wildly in an effort to get back to the water where they can swim about wildly.  They are not cowards, but rather sensible amphibians that flee when the fleeing is good.

  This bullfrog would have no part of this flight tactic.  It rose itself up on all four legs until it was a good eight inches from the ground (alright, maybe it was only 6 inches). His hind legs being much longer, the frog’s hind end was lifted high into the air.  By inflating his body with air, he increased his girth as well. Overall, the final effect was unusual, if not intimidating, for a human observer.

  When I backed off, he backed down. When I re-approached, he re-rose. All of this was performed without a single trace of emotion in his marble-like eyes. They were fixed onto some distant point on the horizon. The whole thing was mechanical, as if I was stepping on a trigger each time I advanced.

  I attempted to make him move, but without success.  Usually a slight touch to the hind end will elicit a hop, but not in this case. He simple rose his hind end up to push away my finger.  I stomped on the ground, but he remained stationary and inflated a bit more.  A very light touch to the head caused him to lower his head at an extreme angle to the ground (see here). In my photo, it may look like I am pushing his head down, but this is not the case.

  It’s not often that you get to see this behavior, so I felt it was worth recording. This belligerent bullfrog provides a great opportunity for you to observe his large circular eardrums – the distinctive trait of the male of the species. You’ll also note the grainy moist surface of his skin and the lack of a fold along the upper body.  When touched, the frog often brought a clear shield over the eyes, called a nictitating membrane (look closer here). This shield covers the eyes like a pair of goggles when the frog goes underwater and is pulled back for above-water viewing. The only thing this frog would not allow me to see was the southern view of himself going north.

  I finally left him to his own bullish thoughts.  It was obvious that this was not the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras or any other county.  

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