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Ask an Island Expert: What is a pinkletink?

“Pinkletink” is a Vineyard name for a tiny frog, known to biologists as Pseudacris crucifer. I’ve never heard “pinkletink” used anywhere other than on the Vineyard; “spring peeper” is a more widely used common name for this amphibian. Barely an inch long, a pinkletink is brown above and whitish below, with an X marking on the back (which accounts for the “crucifer” in the scientific name). Whatever you call them, these are chorus frogs — that is, their mating display in spring consists of large numbers of males calling simultaneously in a competition to see who can attract a female. Each male (and there can be hundreds or thousands at favored sites) puffs out a throat pouch and contributes a clear, whistled “pweet!” Near the shrub swamps and brushy pond edges that are the preferred habitat for this frog, individual calls meld into a chorus so loud it literally hurts your ears at close range. The sound of a loud chorus can carry for a mile or more. The onset of these calls, anywhere from late February to late March, depending on how mild the season is, is one of those signs of spring that human Vineyarders yearn for after a long, bleak winter. After mating, female pinkletinks lay their eggs in whatever freshwater body is handy. The eggs hatch into tiny, legless tadpoles, which feed on tiny invertebrates through the summer, gradually lose their tails and grow their legs, and finally emerge as fully formed adults. They will overwinter in muddy pond bottoms or soggy soil, emerging again in late winter or early spring to repeat the cycle.

 

Matt Pelikan is a naturalist who has studied Vineyard wildlife for 22 years. He writes the “Wild Side” column for The M.V. Times’ Community section.