The water in the little pond in our backyard is boiling with wood frogs, the surface literally roiling with activity. Male wood frogs jockeying for time “on board.” You can tell the females from the males. First off, she is buff colored, pinkish tan, pretty. And she is on the bottom, struggling for her life, or so it appears. I only see one female but the surface is covered with males- dozens and dozens- their legs outstretched, wanting “a piece”. I counted six on top of one female, her little legs clawing as she struggles . It seems like excess to me.
They’ve had a rough winter, these boys though, pretty much frozen in the leaf litter. They can actually sustain having 70% of their body’s liquids freeze before they experience permanent damage. The temps can go as low as -6 and they are still okay. And they can stay frozen for up to a month. Their livers release high levels of glucose to sustain them while cardiac function stops, and blood ceases to circulate.
The pond often still has ice and snow in it when the wood frogs dig their way out of the surrounding woods and make their way to the pond. As soon as the temperature rises high enough in early March, they fill the night with their croaking and begin to antagonize the females. This lasts for a few weeks until the warmer shallow side of the pond is filled with gelatinous green transparent egg sacks.
When the FED EX man or the UPS man comes during wood frog mating season, they immediately get out of the van and say, “What in the heck is that sound?” It is so strange and so loud. It can keep us awake at night.
My very young children learned about sex from the wood frogs ONE of the lessons) . They wanted to know what was happening to that poor frog of a different color. My 90 year-old grandmother did not approve of my birds and bees lecture. I asked her what she thought I should tell them instead of the truth and she said, “Tell them they are playing.” Even to a five year old, they didn’t look like some of them were having much fun.
When it comes to sex education, I much prefer the story of the praying mantises, especially for my daughter, Sierra. The males can never be sure when they have sex with a female if they will get out alive. She has been known to eat her mate, afterwards or even during the act. She may begin by eating his head off, while his body continues in the love act signaling to his body to release its sperm. With his head gone, he cannot “reason” whether this is a good thing he is indulging in or not. He wants it still. The protein from the male sperm is a requirement for the female to produce more eggs and it is a way for the male to keep from leaving prematurely. It also makes sense for the males to offer himself up as food for he can’t pass on his male genes if she starves to death.
This behavior is more often seen in praying manteses who are in captivity- under stress and maybe not given enough food to eat by their keepers.
There was a crack-up carton on the one science website- the female was talking to her headless husband and she commented, “You’ve been sleeping with her, haven’t you?”