Saturday, February 27, 2016

Leapin' Leopard Frog

Drawing of Northern Leopard Frog

Rarities: In 2008, a new species of Northern Leopard Frog, genus Rana, was identified as living in our area: the Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It was the first new amphibian discovered in New York since 1854 and the first found in the U.S. in three decades. That’s pretty cool!  We know frogs are good jumpers and leapers, so I thought it would be appropriate to mention them while celebrating Leap Year Monday 2016. Another rarity. 

Here’s something you may not know about Leap Years: there are three hard and fast rules.  It can’t just happen that any old year can grab onto a February 29 and call itself a Leap Year.  It has to do the following: 1) be divisible by 4; 2) but if the year can be evenly divided by 100, it CANNOT be a Leap Year, unless 3) the year is ALSO evenly divisible by 400.  Then it is a Leap Year.  So we can figure out that 2000 and 2400 are Leap Years although I doubt most of us will be around to celebrate the latter.  And in case anyone was around, 1900, 1800, and 1700 were not Leap Years, but 1600 was.  You can figure out why.  Interesting stuff.

But back to the newly found Northern Leopard Frogs, the newest amphibian species discovered in our area, which by the way were originally found in another Leap Year--2008.  The spotted, brownish, greenish, and approximately 3”-4” frogs were first heard by Jeremy Feinberg, a Rutgers University graduate student, on Staten Island. It seems these frogs have a snore-like chirpy call different from other known northern leopard frogs. They live in open-canopied wetlands and grassy areas. Researchers using DNA and other types of genetic measures identify their epicenter to be near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx although they were found in wetlands in Staten Island. For all we know, they might be responsible for the Yankee or Bronx cheer.  Okay, I know that’s silly. A couple of differences between the newly found frogs and the previously known species are the already mentioned sound of the call, larger vocal sacs, and slightly darker backs of the legs.  Leopard frogs are known to hibernate for about three months of winter.  So again, I think that Leap Year Day is a good time to think of them as they emerge from their hibernation thinking about food--yummy bugs and worms, spring love, and breeding.  Let’s all leap for frogs...for joy!

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