I first encountered Crawfish Frogs when I moved to Columbia, Missouri to take my present job at the University. I was able to find males during the breeding season by listening for their snoring calls, but I never encountered more than three or four in any one farm pond. In recent years, I have not found them anywhere in the Columbia area. The frogs in the video were filmed in April of 2010 in a farm pond near Kirksville, Missouri. I estimate that there were at least 20 males calling in the pond, which was so small that I could walk around its mowed perimeter in less than 5 minutes. The owner of the farm tells me that he has seldom used fertilizer and virtually no pesticides—this might explain the robust population.
The Crawfish Frog (Rana areolata) is a large, rarely seen frog that lives in prairie habitats in the Midwest (see range map below). They call in late winter and early spring for only a few nights when conditions are just right (usually after the first warm spring thunderstorm). You wouldn’t think that so many individuals could breed in such a small, nondescript pond, but this is probably a testament to the richness of the surrounding habitat. By day, Crawfish Frogs commonly take shelter in the abandoned burrows of crayfish, venturing out at night in search of prey (primarily insects and other invertebrates).
Even though male Crawfish Frogs do not defend discrete territories in their breeding ponds, they are highly aggressive in repelling other males that get too close to the area where they are calling on a given night. In the video, there is a clip where one male gives three calls that are answered by rapid grunts from the “dominant” male, who then charges! The timid rival quickly dives and swims away well before his adversary is able to locate him. As with most frogs, the advertisement calls serve the dual purpose of attracting a female with eggs for breeding and alerting neighboring males that an area is occupied.