How Howard L. Kaplan sees himself: as a guitar-playing frog
Complete lyrics from
Frog Pi
scientifically respectable frog songs
by Howard L. Kaplan
All songs ©Howard L. Kaplan
Performing rights administered by SOCAN

There are no copies of this cassette remaining for sale. All four songs are available as free .mp3 downloads, following the links below.

  • Nogies Creek
  • The song of the túngara frog
  • The buffalo, the beetle, the bouncing kangaroo, and the Bufo marinus cane toad
  • The toads and the truck
  • Nogies Creek  See the music; hear the MIDI files; download the .mp3

    My name is Edwin Crossman, and I'm an ecologist.
    I'm studying the bullfrog now; I also study fish.
    My group works down at Nogies Creek in east Ontario.
    We make extensive measurements to see the species grow.
    We measure tadpoles, note their weight, and estimate their age.
    We want to know how many pass through each important stage.
    But there are few statistics in these facts which I now speak:
    What happened on the booming ground last year at Nogies Creek.

         Tell me, why does the bullfrog begin to go courting?
         Is it something in the water?  Is it something in the sky?
         Is it daylight getting longer?  River current growing stronger?
         Do not ask me: I'm the expert, but I cannot tell you why.

    Some things we learn by measurement; some things we learn by chance.
    We've learned that water lily pads are not their favourite plants.
    The bullfrog is too heavy for a perch upon their leaf:
    He'd rather something bushier that's stronger down beneath.
    He'll set his feet upon the stems as wind and wave go by
    To catch the food that comes to him, the beetle and the fly.
    And when the heat of summer comes, each cottage owner wants
    His fifty feet of waterfront kept free of tangled plants.

    Each spring throughout the province in the rivers and the ponds,
    Each male cries his greeting out; each female responds.
    To us it is a message that the springtime does arrive,
    For them it has the meaning that the species will survive.
    At Nogies Creek we see them meet in shallows by the shore.
    They gather by the hundreds now; there once were many more.
    We've named their place of gathering; it's nothing too profound.
    It's taken from the sound they make and called the "booming ground".

    Last spring we went to Nogies Creek in time to see the mate.
    The sound of males booming let us know we weren't too late.
    We set out with our dip nets and our cameras and our pails,
    To take our yearly census, and discovered only males.
    We spent some days in listening: the sound brought no delight,
    To hear that male chorus crying out into the night.
    And when their time had ended, and the earth had lost their sound,
    We saw the females swimming out to fill the booming ground.

    What caused this lack of synchrony?  Which sex is wrong, which right?
    Do males follow temperature?  Do females follow light?
    Is this some fault in nature's plan?  Unlikely that does seem.
    Is this a batch of chemicals that someone dumped upstream?
    A scientist knows causes and effects recur again:
    Those things that happen once we find much harder to explain.
    It may not be good science, but I've not the heart to seek
    Another instance of last year's events at Nogies Creek.

    Based on a lecture given by Dr. Edwin Crossman of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, at the 1979 annual meeting of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists.  Nogies Creek (no apostrophe) is located about 130 miles northeast of Toronto .

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    The Song of the Túngara Frog  See the music; hear the MIDI files; follow the Karaoke version; download the .mp3

     Ay [click click] Ay Ay Ay Ay [click click click click click]
     Ay [click click] Ay Ay Ay Ay [click click click click click]
     Ay [click click] Ay Ay Ay Ay [click click click click click]
     Ay [click click] Ay Ay Ay Ay [click click click click click  click]

    Down in the tropics, where winters are warm
    And hungry mosquitoes bring sickness,
    The treetops are filled with a world-famous frog,
    The lovely, red-eyed Agalychnis.
    Darkness to dawn, beating wings fill the air:
    The fringe-lipped bat, Trachops cirrhosus,
    While under its flight path dwell túngara frogs,
    Or Physalaemus pustulosis.
    Living where so many species abound,
    One critical túngara skill is
    Not getting confused with the much larger frog
    Leptodactylus pentadactylus.
    Therefore, the male has a call that's unique,
    Seeking mates in a water-filled hollow:
    It starts with a whine of a descending pitch,
    During which none to six short clicks follow.

    Túngara frogs don't have shiny, smooth skin,
    Instead, it is heavily warted,
    So much so, in fact, that as toads and not frogs
    They have been incorrectly reported.
    Nor do they grow to a very great length,
    Perhaps thirty-five millimetres,
    When two of them mate, the male breathes fast and deep,
    To make his legs work like egg beaters.
    Air is whipped into their floating foam nests,
    Constructed of several pairs' mating,
    To yield more volume per surface, of course,
    Than would nests built without congregating:
    Not to protect them from water-borne snakes
    That might gobble eggs by the dozens,
    But rather to lessen their being consumed
    By tadpoles of their red-eyed cousins.

    In the moist warmth of a tropical night,
    The túngara male seeking action
    Will float on the surface, puff up his loose cheeks,
    And try to become an attraction.
    Found in a place where no males compete,
    His call consists only of whining,
    And no clicks are added to break up the sound
    As the pitch of each whine is declining.
    But, as the chorus increases in size,
    The males add clicks to their voices,
    Creating a range of acoustic events
    From which their future mates can make choices:
    It is the case, far more often than not,
    The lowest clicks mark the location
    Containing the largest frog, and thus the one
    With the best rate of fertilization.

    In the fierce battle for túngara mates,
    Let's pity the most likely winner,
    Because the short clicks that draw females near
    Help fringe-lipped bats home in on dinner.
    Thus, the dilemma for túngara males
    Is which of two courses to treasure:
    To aim for a longer but lonelier life
    Or risk more for moments of pleasure.
    Long evolution of frogs and of bats
    Has given them each special talents,
    And mixtures of noisy and quieter frogs
    Help to keep the two species in balance.
    If you suspect that I'm making this up,
    Or if you should think that I'm lyin',
    Then go read the book called The Túngara Frog;
    It was written by Michael J. Ryan.


    Michael J. Ryan, The Túngara Frog,  1985, University of Chicago Press, 230 pages

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    The Buffalo, the Beetle, the Bouncing Kangaroo, and the Bufo marinus Cane Toad  See the music; hear the MIDI files; download the .mp3

         To understand the impact of the creature that says "moo"
         Upon the island continent, one must consider too
         The buffalo, the beetle, the bouncing kangaroo,
         And the Bufo marinus cane toad.

    For purpose of discussion, we will say this story starts
    When a buffalo in Africa lifts up its tail and farts.
    The whiff of gas that passes lets some scarabs know an ung-
    Ulate has likely stopped a moment to release a pile of dung.
    The beetles set their windward course before the ground is hit
    By the pungent, fresh constituents of several pounds of shit;
    The leavings, rich in cellulose, of what the beast once ate
    Provide the food and space to brood, so beetles start to mate.

    The rollers and the dwellers and the tunnelers invade,
    Continuing a cycle that Egyptian art portrayed.
    The rollers push their dung away to gain a bit of space;
    The tunnellers drag theirs beneath; the dwellers nest in place.
    Though individually small, they transport ton by ton
    And bury dung that otherwise would bake hard in the sun,
    While mites that hitch a ride on beetles' bodies start to eat
    The eggs of flies that otherwise would for the dung compete.

    If you're a biophysicist, then you can calculate
    That beasts can't move efficiently above a certain weight
    By hopping on their hind legs, and the mass this rule allows
    Means kangaroos cannot evolve to be the size of  cows.
    In consequence, the dung they leave is golf-ball sized, or less,
    And so Australia's coprophagous fauna could address
    Itself to handlng the smaller forms of pre-digested leaf,
    But not the kind that's left behind by half-ton hunks of beef.

    The settlers who brought cattle to Australia many years
    Ago did not consider just how cow dung disappears,
    And so the growing, lowing herds left calling cards around
    Which, sun-baked and inedible, were occupying ground
    Until eroded by the weather, trampled under hoof,
    Or taken by the termites to form floor and wall and roof,
    Eventually, despite the fact that Murphy tends to win
    When people meddle, hexapedal livestock was brought in.

    Not all the coprophagous species introduced so far
    Are forming useful colonies.  Among the ones that are,
    Onthophagus gazella, found in Queensland, flies at night,
    When cane toads lurk at dung pads to consume those who alight.
    These toads, of course, have been of not much use protecting canes,
    While threatening survival of some beneficial strains.
    Perhaps a daylight flyer should assume gazella's role,
    Or else one tough and fierce enough to fight when swallowed whole!


    T.J.Dawson.  Kangaroos.  Scientific American 1977, 237, 78-89.

    I.Hanski and Y.Cambefort (eds.), Dung Beetle Ecology, Princeton University Press, 1991.

    D.F.Waterhouse. The Biological Control of Dung.  Scientific American 1974, 230, 100-109.

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    The Toads and the Truck  See the music; hear the MIDI files; download the .mp3

    Come sit for a while as a tale I unravel,
    Concerning the toads that sit out on the gravel
    Or concrete or asphalt where vehicles travel
    And sometimes get struck by a lorry.
    When some folks consider the role of the truck, it
    Inspires them to gather up toads in a bucket
    And take them to where they might have better luck; it
    Is not, though, the end of my story,
    For speaking of toads and of trucks introduces
    A chance to consider the truck's many uses.

    Perhaps it is carrying great hides of leather
    For tailors and cobblers to fasten together
    As jackets and boots to keep out the cold weather
    That comes with the storms of November.
    Now, as it proceeds down the road, the truck passes
    The source of its leather where cattle eat grasses
    On fields that were drained by the land-owning classes
    In ages none here can remember.
    The pastures grew large, the Great Fen was receding,
    And parts of six counties were lost to toads' breeding.

    Perhaps it is bearing a tankful of oil
    For heating the houses both common and royal
    That once would stay warm burning wood from our soil
    Before the great deforestation.
    But, back when the tongue known to Shakespeare was spoken,
    We cut down such forests so noble and oaken
    That what is remaining is only a token
    Of that which once covered our nation.
    The woods that we cut for the forge and the smelter
    Had meadows and streams once, and toads could find shelter.

    Perhaps it is laden with piles of lumber
    For building the houses that seem beyond number
    In new towns and suburbs where people can slumber,
    Then drive to the cities' congestion.
    In fields where bees once made honey and waxes
    We sent in the workers with saws, picks, and axes
    To push through the roadways we pay for with taxes
    On projects we too rarely question.
    The motorway lanes that we drive without stopping
    Are covering lands where the toads once were hopping.

    Perhaps it is bringing transformers and cables
    To service our houses, our shops, and our stables.
    The coal that we burn at the stations enables
    Us all to have access to power.
    But, as our good Nottingham coal oxidizes,
    The sulphur within it burns too, then it rises,
    And, mixed with nitrogenous oxides, comprises
    The gas that has turned our rain sour.
    When we know the riverbank screams with pain during
    Each storm, can we hope to see tadpoles maturing?

    Perhaps in its rush down the road after dark it
    Is bringing up food from the south Common Market.
    The greengrocer waits for the driver to park it,
    Then unloads the cabbage and marrows.
    But here, as in Europe, most men in possession
    Of land who have chosen the farming profession
    Attempt the same planting each spring in succession,
    As each year their choice of seed narrows.
    Insecticides used upon plants of such breeding
    Are killing the bugs on which toads might be feeding.

    Perhaps it's removing a landowner's treasure,
    Collected through decades of study and leisure,
    That now is donated to give us all pleasure
    At places the public can visit.
    Such antiques, mementos, and artifacts sit in
    Our churches and halls, that it truly is written
    That one great museum is all of Great Britain,
    And this is our glory -- or is it?
    For shall we save porringers crafted of gold or
    Of tin, and lose species millennia older?

    Come sit for a while as I finish this tale
    Of how these improvements to highway and rail
    May speed the dispatch of Her Majesty's mail
    But silence the spring's early voices.
    And, if you see toads with their pouches inflating,
    Informing the world that they're ready for mating,
    But you think there's danger in their congregating
    Near trucks, then consider your choices.
    And, if you would move them, remember my singing:
    Fear less the truck's wheels than what the truck's bringing.

    Inspired by the work of the Welsh herpetologist Paul Gittins, as reported in Out Of Town magazine (Great Britain), August 1983.

    All songs ©Howard L. Kaplan
    Performing rights administered by SOCAN

    There are no copies of this cassette remaining for sale. All four songs are available as free .mp3 downloads, following the links above.

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