Tuesday, March 2, 2021

One of the Earliest References to Identifiable Frogs in the United States

Fig. 1.Title page of Gabriel Thomas’s pamphlet on his
observations of eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey
from 1681-1697.

Gabriel Thomas was among the earliest English settlers to arrive in the colony of Pennsylvania, as he states “…for I went in the first Ship bound from England for that Countrey since it received the name of Pensilvania in 1681.”  He was a member of the Society of Friends, and resided in Pennsylvania and western New Jersey until 1697, after which he returned to England and published his account of life in the colonies. This account, An Historical and Geographical Account of the Province and Country of Pensilvania and of West-New-Jerseyin America (1698, A. Baldwin, London, 32 pp.; Fig. 1), contains one of the first mentions of recognizable frog species in the New World, the American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) and most likely the Gray Treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor). Thomas’s map included Delaware Bay and Delaware River to Bucks County, the northern reach of the Chesapeake Bay, Philadelphia, and early settlements in the area, suggesting he was well familiar with eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. A number of early accounts of North America mention frogs, but seldom can the species be defined. The bullfrog’s distinctive call made this species the most recognizable of all American anurans to early explorers and settlers. 

Contributed by C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr

Fig. 2.The text of Thomas’s observations on frogs within the
region (p. 16).


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