Fixed Green and Brown Color Morphs and a Novel Color‐Changing Morph of the Pacific Tree Frog Hyla regilla
Pacific tree frogs Hyla regilla are typically either green or brown in dorsal coloration. The frequency of green and brown individuals is known to fluctuate seasonally. Previous investigators have generally assumed that the green and brown body colors represent a “fixed” polymorphism and that seasonal changes in the proportion of the two body colors are a consequence of differential survival of the two color morphs. Here we report that, in addition to the “fixed” (i.e., non‐color‐changing) green and brown morphs of H. regilla, there are some individuals that can change hue between green and brown. The distribution of color‐change ability in our study population is bimodal, suggesting that “color changers” are a distinct morph rather than one extreme of a continuous distribution of color‐change ability. Our findings suggest that background brightness, not hue, triggers color change in the newly discovered morph and that this change requires days to weeks to occur. Such slow color change is not well suited for making short‐term changes in color as a frog moves between differently colored substrates. Rather, seasonal changes in habitat characteristics and/or microhabitat use are likely to maintain color‐change ability. Color polymorphism and color‐change ability appear to represent alternative responses to divergent selection for crypsis in a heterogeneous, seasonally variable environment.