Rana aurora - Baird and Girard, 1852
Northern Red-legged Frog
Synonym(s): Rana aurora aurora Baird and Girard, 1852
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Rana aurora Baird and Girard, 1852 (TSN 173446)
French Common Names: grenouille pattes rouges
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100633
Element Code: AAABH01021
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Frogs and Toads
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Anura Ranidae Rana
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Collins, J. T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. 3rd ed. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular No. 19. 41 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B90COL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Rana aurora aurora
Taxonomic Comments: Shaffer et al. (2004) presented genetic evidence supporting the recognition of Rana aurora and R. draytonii as distinct species.

MtDNA data suggest that R. aurora, R. cascadae, and R. muscosa form a clade within the R. boylii species group (Macey et al. 2001).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 19May2015
Global Status Last Changed: 01Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Large range in western North America; substantial declines in some areas; still widespread, common, and apparently secure in many areas; warrants rangewide monitoring.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (01Nov1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N3N4 (19May2015)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alaska (SNA), California (S2?), Oregon (S3S4), Washington (S4)
Canada British Columbia (S3S4)

Other Statuses

Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) Schedule 1/Annexe 1 Status: SC (12Jan2005)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Special Concern (01May2015)
Comments on COSEWIC: Designated Special Concern in April 1999. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2002, November 2004, and May 2015.
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extends from southwestern British Columbia, including Vancouver Island in Canada, south along the coast of the United States (primarily west of Cascade-Sierran crest), to northwestern California (Shaffer et al. 2004). The species has been introduced and is well established and widely distributed on Graham Island, Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), British Columbia; it is unclear whether the species is native there or introduced many years ago (Ovaska et al. 2002). Rana aurora also is introduced and established on Chichagof Island, Alaska; the source of the frogs was Oregon (Hodge 2004).

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a large number of occurrences.

Population Size: 10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 10,000. This species is relatively widespread and common over most of its range (McAllister and Leonard, in Jones et al. 2005; Pearl in Lannoo 2005).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Factors contributing to local declines include wetland destruction and degradation/fragmentation, urbanization, residential development, reservoir construction, stream channelization, livestock grazing of riparian vegetation, off-road vehicle activity, drought, overharvesting, and exotic fishes (bass, mosquitofish) and possibly bullfrogs (Kiesecker and Blaustein 1998; USFWS 1994, 1996, 2000; Adams 1999, 2000; Lawler et al. 1999; Cook and Jennings 2001; Kiesecker, Blaustein and Miller 2001a; Cook 2002). An important threat is the loss of wetlands in the Willamette Valley (Oregon) and Puget Lowlands (Washington), but populations remain in some urbanized areas (see Pearl, in Lannoo 2005). Conversion of habitat to more permanent ponds is an important threat (as this allows breeding waters to be invaded by non-native predators). Habitat characteristics and good leaping ability may render Rana aurora less vulnerable to bullfrog predation than is Rana pretiosa (Pearl et al. 2004). McAllister and Leonard (in Jones et al. 2005) noted that in many areas red-legged frogs coexist with bullfrogs.

Declines in the red-legged frog complex (including Rana draytonii) also have been attributed to global warming, UV-B radiation (Belden and Blaustein 2002), airborne contaminants (pesticide drift), and disease (see Davidson et al. 2001). Davidson et al. (2002) found support for the negative impact of wind-borne agrochemicals and weaker evidence for the widespread impact of habitat destruction and UV-B radiation; evidence did not support the hypothesis that declines have been caused by climate change.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Currently, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probably are declining, though the magnitude of the decline is uncertain.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%
Long-term Trend Comments: Over the long term, extent of occurrence, area of occurrence, number/condition of subpoppulations, and population size have declined, but the amount of decline is uncertain.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range extends from southwestern British Columbia, including Vancouver Island in Canada, south along the coast of the United States (primarily west of Cascade-Sierran crest), to northwestern California (Shaffer et al. 2004). The species has been introduced and is well established and widely distributed on Graham Island, Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), British Columbia; it is unclear whether the species is native there or introduced many years ago (Ovaska et al. 2002). Rana aurora also is introduced and established on Chichagof Island, Alaska; the source of the frogs was Oregon (Hodge 2004).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AKexotic, CA, OR, WA
Canada BC

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Del Norte (06015), Humboldt (06023), Mendocino (06045)
OR Benton (41003), Clackamas (41005), Clatsop (41007), Columbia (41009), Coos (41011), Curry (41015), Douglas (41019), Hood River (41027), Jackson (41029), Josephine (41033)*, Lane (41039), Lincoln (41041), Linn (41043), Marion (41047), Multnomah (41051), Polk (41053), Tillamook (41057), Wasco (41065), Washington (41067), Yamhill (41071)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
17 Middle Columbia-Hood (17070105)+, Lower Deschutes (17070306)+, Lower Columbia-Sandy (17080001)+, Lower Columbia (17080006)+, Middle Fork Willamette (17090001)+, Coast Fork Willamette (17090002)+, Upper Willamette (17090003)+, Mckenzie (17090004)+, North Santiam (17090005)+, South Santiam (17090006)+, Middle Willamette (17090007)+, Yamhill (17090008)+, Molalla-Pudding (17090009)+, Tualatin (17090010)+, Clackamas (17090011)+, Lower Willamette (17090012)+, Necanicum (17100201)+, Nehalem (17100202)+, Wilson-Trusk-Nestuccu (17100203)+, Siletz-Yaquina (17100204)+, Alsea (17100205)+, Siuslaw (17100206)+, Siltcoos (17100207)+, North Umpqua (17100301)+, South Umpqua (17100302)+, Umpqua (17100303)+, Coos (17100304)+, Coquille (17100305)+, Sixes (17100306)+, Applegate (17100309)+, Lower Rogue (17100310)+, Illinois (17100311)+*, Chetco (17100312)+
18 Smith (18010101)+, Mad-Redwood (18010102)+, Lower Eel (18010105)+, Big-Navarro-Garcia (18010108)+, Upper Klamath (18010206)+*, Lower Klamath (18010209)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: Dorsum brown, gray, olive, or reddish, with irregular dark spotting or blotching; usually has a dark mask above the whitish jaw stripe; adults usually red on lower abdomen and underside of legs; usually coarse blackish, red, and yellow mottling in groin; relatively long legs (heel reaches at least to nostril when extended leg is pulled forward; eyes face outward, well covered by lids when viewed from above; prominent dorsolateral folds; snout-vent length usually 4-13 cm; young may have yellow instead of red on underside of legs and in groin; adult males have enlarged forelimbs and thumb base and more extensive webbing (Stebbins 1985).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from R. PRETIOSA in having a mottled groin, eyes that are not turned upward, and the light jaw stripe ending before the shoulder rather than usually reaching the shoulder. Differs from R. CASCADAE in having less well-defined black spots on the dorsum, usually red rather than yellow on the lower abdomen and underside of the limbs, a more mottled groin, and generally smoother skin. Differs from R. BOYLII in having usually red rather than yellow on the underside of the limbs, a dark mask, prominent rather than indistinct dorsolateral folds, and smooth rather than granular eyedrums. (Stebbins 1985).
Reproduction Comments: Breeding time varies geographically; breeds March-July in the north. Breeding period lasts about 1-2 weeks. Eggs hatch in 5-7 weeks in western Oregon. Larvae metamorphose in about 11-20 weeks, but sometimes may overwinter. Larvae in British Columbia metamorphosed in 11-14 weeks.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: In Oregon, Hayes et al. (2001) found that four individuals moved 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 2.4 km between capture points (these were the largest documented movements).
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Low gradient, Pool
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Mixed, Forest/Woodland, Grassland/herbaceous
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Habitat includes the vicinity of permanent waters of stream pools, marshes, ponds, and other quiet bodies of water. This frog regularly occurs in damp woods and meadows some distance from water, especially during wet weather. Individuals (especially juveniles) seasonally can be found in and near ephemeral pools. Estivation sites include small mammal burrows and moist leaf litter in dense riparian vegetation up to at least 26 meters from water (Rathbun et al. 1993, cited by USFWS 1994). Desiccation cracks in dry pond bottoms may be used as refuges (Alvarez, 2004, Herpetol. Rev. 35:162-163). Breeding sites most often are in permanent water; eggs are attached to stiff submerged stems at the surface of the water.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Diet includes beetles, caterpillars, isopods, and various other small invertebrates (Nussbaum et al. 1983). In California, diet mainly invertebrates of shoreline or water surface; large adults also may eat small vertebartes. Larvae eat algae, organic debris, plant tissue, and other minute organisms.
Adult Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Inactive in cold temperatures and hot, dry weather. May be active all year in coastal areas, inactive late summer to early winter elsewhere (Zeiner et al. 1988). In California, adults and subadults apparently mainly nocturnal; juveniles active day or night (Hayes and Tennant 1985).
Length: 14 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Ranid Frogs

Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Breeding Location
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy major highway, especially at night, such that frogs rarely if ever cross successfully; urban development dominated by buildings and pavement; habitat in which site-specific data indicate the frogs virtually never occur.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: BARRIERS/UNSUITABLE HABITAT: Rivers may or may not be effective barriers, depending on stream width and flow dynamics; identification of streams as barriers is a subjective determination. Ranid frog species vary in habitat use, but even the most aquatic species may traverse upland habitat when conditions are suitable (Pope and Matthews 2001); natural and seminatural upland habitat generally does not constitute a barrier. Here, unsuitable habitat refers to upland habitat devoid or nearly devoid of wetlands, streams, ponds, or lakes. Bodies of water dominated by predatory fishes may be barriers to some species but suitable habitat for others; in most cases, such waters probably should be regarded as unsuitable habitat.

SUITABLE HABITAT: Suitable habitat includes riparian/riverine corridors, wetlands, and wetland/upland mosaics in which wetland patches are separated by less than 1 km of upland habitat; it also includes any upland habitat regularly used for feeding or wintering (e.g., mesic forest for wood frogs).

MOVEMENTS: Available information indicates that individual ranids occasionally move distances of several km (R. luteiventris: Reaser 1996, cited by Koch et al. 1997; R. blairi: Gillis 1975) but most individuals stay within a few kilometers of their breeding sites (R. aurora draytonii: USFWS, Federal Register, 11 September 2000; R. capito: Franz et al. 1988; R. clamitans: Lamoureux and Madison 1999; R. luteiventris: Turner 1960, Hollenbeck 1974, Bull and Hayes 2001). Similarly, maximum distance between capture points generally is a few kilometers or less (R. aurora: Hayes et al. 2001; USFWS, Federal Register, 11 September 2000; R. catesbeiana: Willis et al. 1956; R. luteiventris: Reaser and Pilliod, in press; Engle 2000; R. muscosa: Pope and Matthews 2001). Dispersal data for juveniles are lacking for most species.

Adult and juvenile R. sylvatica readily traveled in excess of 300 m from their pools of origin (Vasconcelos and Calhoun 2004). Bellis (1965) determined that adult and juvenile R. sylvatica in a peat bog had traveled at least 410 m from the nearest breeding pool. Berven and Grudzien (1990) found that dispersing R. sylvatica juveniles traveled an average of 1,208 m from their natal pools. In the Shenandoah Mountains, data for R. sylvatica indicated that ponds separated by a distance greater than 1,000 m should experience little gene flow (Berven and Grudzien 1991). In contrast, populations in Minnesota were very similar in allelic frequencies, even at distances greater than several kilometers (Squire and Newman 2002). However, sample sizes and number of loci examined were small, and genetic patterns do not necessarily reflect movement distances.

The preponderance of data for ranids indicate that a separation distance of several kilometers may be appropriate for suitable habitat and practical for occurrence delineation, despite occasional movements that are longer and that may allow some genetic interchange between distant populations. The movement data for ranids are here regarded as consistent enough to allow the same separation distance to be used for different species; much of the apparent variation in movements doubtless reflects differences in study methods and in the ability to detect long-distance movements.

Date: 01Apr2005
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 26Jun2008
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 25May2008
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Altig, R. and Dumas, P.C. 1972. Rana aurora. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 160:1-4.

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  • Briggs, J. L., Sr. 1987. Breeding biology of the Cascade frog, Rana cascadae, with comparisons to R. aurora and R. pretiosa. Copeia 1987:241-245.

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  • Davidson, C., H. B. Shaffer, and M. R. Jennings. 2001. Declines of the California red-legged frog: climate, UV-B, habitat, and pesticides hypotheses. Ecological Applications 11:464-479.

  • Fellers, G. M., A. E. Launer, G. Rathbun, S. Bobzien, J. Alvarez, D. Sterner, R. B. Seymour, and M. Westphal. 2001. Overwintering tadpoles in the California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii). Herpetological Review 32:156-157.

  • Frost, D. R. 2010. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 5.4 (8 April 2010). Electronic Database accessible at http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/index.php. American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA.

  • Green, D. M. 1985. Biochemical identification of red-legged frogs, RANA AURORA DRAYTONI, at Duckwater, Nevada. Southwestern Naturalist 30:614-616.

  • Green, D.M. 1986a. Systematics and evolution of western North American frogs allied to Rana aurora and Rana boylii: karyological evidence. Systematic Zoology 35:273-282.

  • Green, D.M. 1986b. Systematics and evolution of western North American frogs allied to Rana aurora and Rana boylii: electrophoretic evidence. Systematic Zoology 35:283-296.

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  • Hayes, M. P., and M. R. Tennant. 1985. Diet and feeding behavior of the California red-legged frog, RANA AURORA DRAYTONI (Ranidae). Southwestern Naturalist 30:601-605.

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  • Lannoo, M. (editor). 2005. Amphibian declines: the conservation status of United States species. University of California Press, Berkeley. xxi + 1094 pp.

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  • Species at Risk Branch. 2002. Species at risk range maps. Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada. Online. Available: http://www.sis.ec.gc.ca/download_e.htm.

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  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 13 March 2001. Final determination of critical habitat for the California red-legged frog. Federal Register 66(49):14626-14758.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1994. Proposed endangered status for the California red-legged frog. Federal Register 59(22):4888-4895. 2 February 1994.

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