By PATRICIA SIMPSON
Did you enjoy the small late spring showers? You might not be the only one. One of our cutest Mission Trails Regional Park residents, the Baja California Treefrog (Pseudacris hypochondriaca) — such as the one observed by trobinson41 shown at www.inaturalist.org/observations/72723797 — most likely did too.
This little amphibian, adorned with toe pads on each digit, lives near water and choses from a variety of water bodies (rivers, ponds, ditches, lakes, canals) to lay eggs in the winter and spring. It can be recognized by a dark stripe on either side of its face, starting at the snout and extending through the eyes to the shoulder. Its coloring can be very different from one individual to the next. The color of a specific frog, ranging from tan to brown or green, will most often match the microhabitat it lives in. Dorsal spots or stripes may appear and disappear depending on the environment.
Even though Pseudacris hypochondriaca is a treefrog, it doesn’t climb trees and much prefers hanging near the ground or on low vegetation. Treefrogs are also called chorus frogs. The Latin name Pseudacris comes from the Greek pseudes (false) and akris (locust), in reference to their vocal prowess.
And speaking of vocal prowess, ask anyone in the English-speaking world what sound a frog makes and the answer will almost always be “ribbit” and that’s exactly how the song of the Baja California Treefrog is described. More surprising however is the fact that this is a fairly unique frog call from a tiny amphibian that lives only in parts of Southern California, parts of Nevada, the northwestern Arizona border and northern Baja California, Mexico.
So why would everyone in the world use that particular sound to describe all frogs in the universe? The answer: Hollywood!
For years and to this day, the studios use the California Baja Treefrog calls in cartoons, movies, and television series. After all, it’s easy for the sound engineers to step out in their own backyards and push the “record” button. That same sound (sometimes at a different pitch) is also often used for toys and novelty items.
— Patricia Simpson is a trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park.