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Spring Chorus: Iowa's Frogs And Toads

While schools are closed, we're creating a series of "Talk of Iowa" episodes that will be fun and educational for learners of all ages. Every Tuesday, we'll learn about Iowa wildlife, and every Thursday, we'll learn about Iowa history.  

When the temperatures start to rise in the spring Iowa’s frogs and toads have a lot to say. Wildlife biologist Jim Pease will introduce listeners to the singers in Iowa’s “spring chorus.” We’ll learn why frogs and toads make so much noise and how to identify the calls of different species.

Stephanie Shepherd runs the Frog and Toad Survey for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. She’ll tell us how volunteer citizen scientists help track the amphibian populations in the state and how you can learn to listen. You can see images and learn more about all of the species discussed on today's program on the Herpnet website.

Vocabulary for this podcast:

Amphibian, noun - any of a class (Amphibia) of cold-blooded vertebrates (such as frogs, toads, or salamanders) intermediate in many characters between fish and reptiles and having gilled aquatic larvae and air-breathing adults.

Tadpole, noun - a frog or toad larva that has a rounded body with a long tail bordered by fins and external gills soon replaced by internal gills and that undergoes a metamorphosis to the adult.

Metamorphosis, noun - (in an insect or amphibian) the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.

Vomerine teeth, noun - Small projections in the top of a frog's mouth that function in holding and captured prey. 

Conversation questions for this podcast: 

  • How do frogs and toads survive the winter?
  • What’s the difference between a frog and a toad?
  • What is your favorite frog song?
  • Why is it important to try to keep track of frog and toad populations?
  • Amphibians are very sensitive to pollution and other changes in the environment. What can studying them teach us about water quality, climate change and other environmental challenges? 
  • You can create a frog chorus at home! You need four people. The first person, in a slow deep voice, says, "potatoes, potatoes." That person is the voice of the bullfrog. Next, in a creaky voice someone repeats the phrase, "fried bacon." That's the voice of the leopard frog. The spring peepers have a high, fast call, so the next person should say, "tomatoes, tomatoes" over and over quickly in a high pitched voice. Finally the green frog joins the chorus. Jim Pease says that green frogs have no rhythm and sound like a broken banjo string. At random moments the fourth person should call out, "squash." All the sounds together will sound a little like a chorus of frogs in nature. Have fun! 

Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa