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Squeakers and Cricket Frogs: Arthroleptidae - Behavior And Reproduction

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For many of the squeakers and cricket frogs, time is spent mainly searching along the forest floor, or the shores of streams and rivers, for something to eat. Some, like Tanner's litter frog, hunt by ambush. In this type of hunting, the frog sits very still in one place, waits for an unsuspecting insect or spider to wander past, and quickly grabs and eats it. Other species, including the Ugandan squeaker, take a more active role and slowly move along the ground looking for insects to eat.

Those frogs that live in meadows and in bright, open forests usually stay out of sight during the day and do their hunting at night. Others that live in thick, shady forests may venture out during the daytime, as well as at night. Whether they are active only at night, or during both night and day, squeakers and cricket frogs will seek shelter under leaves if the weather becomes too dry and stay there until it rains again. Some species dig burrows and remain underground instead. This period when the frogs rest and wait for less-dry weather is called estivation (es-tih-VAY-shun).

The frogs mate during the rainy season, when storms soak the land. Squeakers and cricket frogs are named for the sounds of their calls. Some, like the West African screeching frog, have a little flutter in their calls. The West African screeching frog has a high call that lasts less than a second. Many people think this species, and others with calls like it, sounds like crickets. The common squeaker has a short high peep of a call. The calls of the males in each species draw in females of the same species. Those frogs in the subfamily Arthroleptinae mate and lay their eggs in a moist spot on land. The female Tanner's litter frog, for instance, lays about thirty eggs in a small dip in the ground underneath the leaves.

The female Bush squeaker follows the male's long, high "wheep" or "wheepee" call, pairs with him, and lays eleven to eighty eggs under leaves at the base of a bush or other thick, leafy plant. In some species, like the Ugandan squeaker, the female may lay more than one batch of eggs in one breeding period. Since this species only lives for about six months, these two or more sets of eggs are the only young she will have. The female West African screeching frog also lays more than one set of eggs in a breeding season. In each of her two or three clutches, she usually lays ten to thirty eggs. Like the Ugandan squeaker, the West African screeching frog only lives for about six months.

The eggs of most members of this subfamily are each covered in a capsule of gel. The gel provides extra moisture for the baby frog developing inside. While it is growing inside the egg, scientists call the frog an embryo (EHM-bree-oh). They use this same word to describe other types of animals, such as chickens, snakes, and lizards, while they are inside the egg. In squeakers and cricket frogs, the embryo must remain moist. If the egg were to dry out, the embryo would die. These eggs typically have a large yolk, which feeds the growing embryo until the egg hatches.

In some species, an adult stays with the eggs until they hatch. Bush squeakers are one of the species that have this type of care for the eggs. Instead of hatching into tadpoles, the eggs of the frogs in this subfamily hatch right into froglets. The froglets usually look much like the adults. The froglets of the West African screeching frog, for example, have the same dark, hourglass-shaped pattern on their backs as the adults do. By the time they are three months old, these froglets are old enough to reproduce themselves.

Frogs in the subfamily Astylosterninae do things a bit differently. Instead of mating and laying their eggs on land, they mate and lay their eggs in a fast-flowing stream or river. The males select a spot off to the side where the water is calm, and they mate with females there. The females lay their eggs in the water. In some species, like the hairy frog, the male stays with the sunken eggs until they hatch. The eggs of species in this subfamily hatch into tadpoles, which usually head out of the calm water and into the rushing flow. Some tadpoles, like those of the hairy frog, have large suckers, which the tadpoles use to grab onto rocks and other surfaces, and fight the current. Other tadpoles, like those of the crowned forest frog, have no suckers, but still swim into the fast waters of the stream or river. The tadpoles change into froglets, which then leave the water for a life on land.

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