Thursday, April 21, 2005

Joyful noise

Temperature in the 80s today, and on the walk home from college the spring peepers in full fortissimo chorus.

The peeper is only an inch long, but it's all voice-box from stem to stern. Most frogs call by inflating air sacs under their chins; peepers inflate their whole bodies. The air is not expelled with each peep. The peeper uses its body like a bagpiper's bag; keeps it pumped up for the duration of its amatory calls.

It's the male frog making all the noise. That old spring business all over again, finding a mate. But why the tumultuous decibels? Is the female peeper deaf? Has evolution cranked up the volume of this chorus by finding some connection between the loudness of the love song and reproductive fitness?

Or is it something else, something you won't find in the biology books -- pure excess vitality. Just listen to that racket rising from the water meadow. That's what the spring peepers' hallelujah chorus is all about: the sheer, unstoppable ebullience of life.