Rainy season is underway here in Florida, which means our amphibious wildlife friends will be out in full force enjoying the splendor. Amphibians are small, vertebrate organisms that have unique and distinct metamorphosis phases in their lives. This involves both living in water and on land. During the months of May through mid-October, many amphibian species are observed at a higher rate of frequency due to the increased amount of rain occurring throughout the state. This includes the 30-plus species of our hippest and hoppiest residents around, frogs.
Frogs are amphibians that spend most of their lives on land but have spent the first part of their life living in water. In fact, frogs need water and moist environments to reproduce, as they will lay their eggs directly in water, where they hatch into tadpoles, using gills to breathe until they develop lungs and move out of the water onto land. This can include lakes, ponds, marshes and even man-made water sources such as fountains and pools.
Florida’s warm and hospitable tropical and subtropical climate makes the state a welcoming environment for tree frogs and toads alike. Native and non-native species have both proven very successful in breeding and distributing among almost every ecosystem that Florida has to offer. Florida is home to several species of frogs and two distinct variations, tree frogs and toads.
Tree frogs are easily identifiable by their uniquely designed feet. Tree frogs prefer to frequent vertical surfaces and have round toe pads that look and function like suction cups. This handy adaptation allows them to ‘stick’ to their preferred vertical structures, such as trees, wet leaves and, often, residential glass doors, windows and sliders.
There are also several species of toads in the state. They differ in appearance generally by having shorter legs and dryer skin, and they are found in terrestrial habitats, such as urban and suburban areas. Toads are never far from standing water and cannot achieve the vertical climbing that tree frogs are able to.
Frogs are each uniquely important to the overall health of our ecosystems and are vital indicator species. Due to their porous skin, frogs have a keen sensitivity to changes and pollutants in the environment. The presence of any species of frogs is a good indication of favorable water quality and a healthy ecosystem. You can help protect the frogs of Florida by reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides in the environment.