Cope's Gray Tree Frog

The suction-cup-like feet of this frog are the clue that it has tree-climbing abilities.

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The suction-cup-like feet of this frog are the clue that it has tree-climbing abilities. The Cope's gray tree frog (Hyla chrysoscelis) is a small (two inches or less) woodland creature that also has the chameleon-like ability to change colors according to its environment.

The color change helps the tree frog avoid the detection of predators such as raccoons, possums and snakes, but there are a number of other reasons. "Most tree frogs are able to change their color in response to a number of external factors — i.e., temperature, moisture — and activity level," says Eric Soehren, a terrestrial zoologist with the Alabama Natural Heritage Section. "The Cope's gray tree frog may vary considerably from light gray to green, with darker blotches in no particular pattern. [It has] a light, square-shaped spot under the eye and vivid yellow to orange on the inner thighs."

In looks, the Cope's gray tree frog is nearly identical to the Eastern gray tree frog (H. versicolor) but differs in its calls (heard from late spring through summer); the Eastern gray tree frog's call is a slow trill, and the Cope's gray tree frog's call is faster and higher-pitched. "Although the ranges of both species partially overlap continentally, only the Cope's occurs in Alabama," says Soehren. The Cope's gray tree frog shown above was photographed in central Alabama.

The gray tree frog is nocturnal, spending the nights looking for food in trees and shrubs. It feeds on various insects, including grasshoppers, moths, flies and small beetles. Its toe pads aren't really suction cups: The cells on its toe pads — and the spaces in between — work with specially secreted mucus to produce capillary action that helps the tree frog gain traction on vertical surfaces.

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