Frogs in a barrel

Where did that expression “like shooting fish in a barrel” come from?  Meaning it’s so easy, you can’t miss?  Well, you can’t really miss when you take photos of tree frogs in a rain barrel either, except when you have absolutely no room to get behind the camera viewer and have to hold it over your head and point randomly downward hoping the subject is in the photo, like this.

Gray Tree Frogs hang around landscaped dwellings in the summer after they breed in the nearest pond.  They especially like outdoor lights…and rain barrels, where they find lots of tasty insects to eat.  They climb vertical surfaces with ease using those super-sticky toe pads.

(Photo from Hanna and Barnes, 1991, Journal of Experimental Biology 155: 109)

However, there is no glue or adhesive secreted, just the simple physics of the surface tension developed by a large area of moist skin pressed against a flat surface.  It’s the same principle used for suction cups that stick to vertical glass surfaces.  For greater sticking power, frogs press their belly and thigh skin against the surface as well, and can stay put at angles of as much as 150 degrees from horizontal (i.e., tending towards upside down).  Read more about how this was determined here.

(Photo by co-blogger Alison)

8 thoughts on “Frogs in a barrel

  1. I just love reptiles and amphibians, Sue. Pretty darn good picture for having to aim blind.

    Down here, we are suffering an invasion of exotic Cuban tree frogs…huge, bloated, pasty white, corpse-looking creatures who will eat anything. Including baby birds from the nest. I watched one take a leap at a hovering hummingbird once. I hate them with a passion, since they managed to destroy every one of the beautiful emerald green native tree frogs in my yard. I went on a frog-gigging crusade, I’m afraid, and between me, and the really cold freezes we had two winters ago, pretty much got rid of them around my house. I’m now seeing some other small greenhouse frogs and the like appearing again, but no green tree frogs yet. It’s amazing the damage exotics can cause, and Florida is a hotbed of them, sadly.

    I love your photo, and the amazing close ups of their little feet. Oh, that reminds me. I’ve been spotting a gecko (non-native, but not overly invasive, apparently) around my back door at night. He’s very pretty, and I’ll bet his toe pads are quite similar to the photos you shared with us.

    Thanks for such a good post. May you never have any corpsy-bloaty exotics bother YOUR frogs!!!

    • I would be the first one to support getting rid of non-native species! Hard to do in California and Florida where the fauna and flora seem to be composed primarily of non-natives these days. However, more power to you in extirpating the invaders!

      Gecko toes are fascinating. They are fringed with folds of skin, each layer of which adds suction capacity to the foot. Hence, running upside down on the ceiling…

  2. I love the details of the skin texture, eyes, and feet of the frog (and it’s hard to believe you took the shot blindly). The explanation of how the suction-pad feet work is fascinating.

      • Ah, the beauty of digital photograph is that you can afford to take lots and lots of shots trying to get a good one. When I was in Paris last fall I was fascinated by the ornate ceilings and sometimes placed my camera on a pew or on the floor and shot blindly straight up. In that case, the issue was as much a need to steady the camera as to point it in the right direction. In your case, the results speak for themselves. You got a wonderful shot despite the obstacles.

        • Ain’t that the truth. I’m not sure of my “keeper” ratio, but I do know that on a good day, I will shoot well over 100 photos, edit about 25 of them, and post only a few. But it’s fun!

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