Rana draytonii - Baird and Girard, 1852
California Red-legged Frog
Other English Common Names: California red-legged frog
Synonym(s): Rana aurora draytonii Baird and Girard, 1852
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Rana draytonii Baird and Girard, 1852 (TSN 207009)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105364
Element Code: AAABH01022
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 draytonii
Taxonomic Comments: Significant morphological and behavioral differences between Rana draytonii and R. aurora suggest that they represent two species in secondary contact (Hayes and Krempels 1986, cited by USFWS 1994). Shaffer et al. (2004) presented genetic evidence supporting the recognition of Rana aurora and R. draytonii as distinct species.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G2G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 05Jun2015
Global Status Last Changed: 05Jun2015
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Restricted mostly to California, where populations have declined greatly due to habitat loss and degradation, past overexploitation, and introduced species; species continues to be threatened by habitat degradation and exotic species.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2N3 (31Jul2007)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States California (S2S3), Nevada (SNA)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS:LT
Comments on USESA: Listed Threatened (as R. aurora draytonii) throughout its range, except Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino Cos., CA; Glenn, Lake, and Sonoma Cos., CA, west of the Central Valley Hydrologic Basin; Sonoma and Marin Cos., CA, west and north of San Francisco Bay drainages and Walker Creek drainage; and NV.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R8 - California-Nevada
IUCN Red List Category: VU - Vulnerable

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Native historical range extended from southern Mendocino County in northwestern California south (primarily west of the Cascade-Sierra crest) to northwestern Baja California (Shaffer et al. 2004). Historical populations on the floor of the Central Valley may not have persisted due to extensive natural flooding (Fellers, in Lannoo 2005). Range is now much reduced in the Sierra Nevada and in southern California, but the species is still present throughout much of its former range in the central California coast range (Fellers, in Lannoo 2005). This species has been introduced in a few places in Nevada, but the current status of those populations is uncertain (A. Cook, cited by Fellers, in Lannoo 2005). Rana draytonii is still present in Baja California, Mexico (USFWS 2000, Grismer 2002, Shaffer et al. 2004). Elevational range extended from sea level to about 1,500 meters (5,000 feet); usually below 1,200 meters (3,935 feet).

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Number of distinct occurrences (subpopulations) is unknown but probably is at least several dozen. According to USFWS (2000), the species occurs in about 238 streams or drainages.

In the mid-1990s, most of the occupied habitat was in Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties; the species occurred in only 5 sites south of the Tehachapi Mountains (80+ historic sites) (USFWS 1996) Aggregations including more than 350 adults were known only from Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve in coastal San Mateo County, Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, and Rancho San Carlos in Monterey County (USFWS 1996). More than 120 breeding sites exist in Marin County (Fellers, in Lannoo 2005).

In California, south of Los Angeles, a single population is known from the Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside County (Shaffer et al. 2004). Only two populations are known to exist south of Santa Barabra (Fellers, in Lannoo 2005).

In the Sierra Nevada, Rana draytonii is now represented by only about a half dozen populations, only one of which is known to have more than 10 breeding adults (Shaffer et al. 2004).

Population Size: 10,000 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but undoubtedly exceeds 10,000. The species is still locally abundant in portions of the San Francisco Bay area and the central coast (USFWS 2000). Breeding sites in Marin County include several thousand adults (Fellers, in Lannoo 2005).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very few to few (1-12)
Viability/Integrity Comments: In the mid-1990s, aggregations including more than 350 adults were known from only a few sites (USFWS 1996).

Overall Threat Impact: High
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 1988, 1998; USFWS 1994, 1996, 2000; Adams 1999, 2000; Lawler et al. 1999; Cook and Jennings 2001; Kiesecker, Blaustein and Miller 2001a; Cook 2002). 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/draytonii 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 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Currently, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size probabaly are still declining, but the rate of decline is unknown.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 50-70%
Long-term Trend Comments: Over the long term, extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size have undergone a major decline. The species has been extirpated from much of its former range in California (Hayes and Jennings 1988, Shaffer et al. 2004). Range has been reduced by 70% (USFWS 1996, 2000).

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: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Native historical range extended from southern Mendocino County in northwestern California south (primarily west of the Cascade-Sierra crest) to northwestern Baja California (Shaffer et al. 2004). Historical populations on the floor of the Central Valley may not have persisted due to extensive natural flooding (Fellers, in Lannoo 2005). Range is now much reduced in the Sierra Nevada and in southern California, but the species is still present throughout much of its former range in the central California coast range (Fellers, in Lannoo 2005). This species has been introduced in a few places in Nevada, but the current status of those populations is uncertain (A. Cook, cited by Fellers, in Lannoo 2005). Rana draytonii is still present in Baja California, Mexico (USFWS 2000, Grismer 2002, Shaffer et al. 2004). Elevational range extended from sea level to about 1,500 meters (5,000 feet); usually below 1,200 meters (3,935 feet).

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 CA, NVexotic

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Alameda (06001), Amador (06005)*, Butte (06007), Calaveras (06009), Contra Costa (06013), El Dorado (06017), Fresno (06019), Los Angeles (06037), Marin (06041), Mendocino (06045), Merced (06047), Monterey (06053), Napa (06055), Nevada (06057), Placer (06061), Riverside (06065), San Benito (06069), San Bernardino (06071), San Diego (06073)*, San Francisco (06075), San Joaquin (06077), San Luis Obispo (06079), San Mateo (06081), Santa Barbara (06083), Santa Clara (06085), Santa Cruz (06087), Solano (06095), Sonoma (06097), Stanislaus (06099), Tehama (06103), Tuolumne (06109)*, Ventura (06111), Yuba (06115)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
18 Big-Navarro-Garcia (18010108)+, Gualala-Salmon (18010109)+, Russian (18010110)+, North Fork Feather (18020121)+, Upper Yuba (18020125)+, North Fork American (18020128)+, South Fork American (18020129)+, Paynes Creek-Sacramento River (18020155)+, Upper Putah (18020162)+, Tulare-Buena Vista Lakes (18030012)+, Middle San Joaquin-Lower (18040001)+, Middle San Joaquin-Lower (18040002)+, San Joaquin Delta (18040003)+, Upper Tuolumne (18040009)+*, Upper Stanislaus (18040010)+*, Upper Calaveras (18040011)+, Upper Cosumnes (18040013)+, Suisun Bay (18050001)+, San Pablo Bay (18050002)+, Coyote (18050003)+, San Francisco Bay (18050004)+, Tomales-Drake Bays (18050005)+, San Francisco Coastal South (18050006)+, San Lorenzo-Soquel (18060001)+, Pajaro (18060002)+, Estrella (18060004)+, Salinas (18060005)+, Central Coastal (18060006)+, Cuyama (18060007)+, Santa Maria (18060008)+, San Antonio (18060009)+, Santa Ynez (18060010)+, Alisal-Elkhorn Sloughs (18060011)+, Carmel (18060012)+, Santa Barbara Coastal (18060013)+, Santa Barbara Channel Islands (18060014)+*, Ventura (18070101)+, Santa Clara (18070102)+, Santa Monica Bay (18070104)+, Santa Ana (18070203)+*, Santa Margarita (18070302)+, Antelope-Fremont Valleys (18090206)+, Mojave (18090208)+, Whitewater River (18100201)+, San Felipe Creek (18100203)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A frog with dorsolateral ridges.
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 8-12 cm in adult males, 9-14 cm in adult females; young may have yellow instead of red on underside of legs and in groin; adult males have enlarged forelimbs and thumb base, more extensive webbing, and average about 2 cm longer in adult SVL (Stebbins 1985, Hayes and Miyamoto 1984).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from subspecies aurora in having more dorsal spots (usually with light centers), rougher skin, shorter limbs, and smaller eyes (Stebbins 1985); also averages larger (by 35-40 mm) in adult SVL (usually 8-14 cm vs. 5-9 cm) (Hayes and Miyamoto 1984).
Reproduction Comments: Breeds typically during or shortly after large rainfall events in late winter or early spring (Hayes and Miyamoto 1984, USFWS 1996). In southern California breeds January-July (primarily in February). Breeding period lasts about 1-2 weeks. Eggs hatch in 6-14 days. Larval mortality tends to be very high. Larvae metamorphose 3.5-7 months after hatching; sometimes they may overwinter (Fellers et al. 2001). Sexually mature in 3-4 years, may live 8-10 years.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Based on movements of Rana draytonii, USFWS recognized the primary constituent elements for critical habitat to be, at a minimum, two (or more) suitable breeding locations, a permanent water source, associated uplands surrounding these water bodies up to 150 m from the water's edge, all within 2 km of one another and connected by barrier-free dispersal habitat that is at least 150 m in width. When these elements are all present, all other suitable aquatic habitat within 2 km, and free of dispersal barriers, is also considered critical habitat. This is based on individuals of this subspecies moving up to 3.6 km in a virtual straight line migration from nonbreeding to breeding habitats (Federal Register, 11 September 2000).
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Low gradient, Pool
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: This species usually occurs in or near quiet permanent water of streams, marshes, ponds, lakes, and other quiet bodies of water. In summer, frogs estivate in small mammal burrows, leaf litter, or other moist sites in or near (within a few hundred feet of) riparian areas (Rathbun et al. 1993, cited by USFWS 1994; USFWS 1996). Individuals may range far from water along riparian corridors and in damp thickets and forests. Breeding occurs in permanent or seasonal water of ponds, marshes, or quiet stream pools, sometimes in lakes (Fellers, in Jones et al. 2005); eggs often are attached to emergent vegetation, float at surface (Hayes and Miyamoto 1984).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Diet includes various terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, mainly invertebrates of shoreline or water surface. Diet of large adults also includes small vertebrates. 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). Adults and subadults apparently mainly nocturnal; juveniles active day or night (Hayes and Tennant 1985).
Length: 12 centimeters
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Heavily exploited for human food in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: A monitoring and conservation program should be implemented in the Mexican range of this species.
Management Requirements: A final recovery plan is available (USFWS, Sacramento, California; telephone 916-414-6600; http://www.r1.fws.gov/ecoservices/endangered/recovery/default.htm).
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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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: 27Feb2009
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 18Apr2008
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
Help
  • Altig, R. and Dumas, P.C. 1972. Rana aurora. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 160:1-4.

  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.

  • Belden, L. K., and A. R. Blaustein. 2002. Exposure of red-legged frog embryos to ambient UV-B radiation in the field negatively affects larval growth and development. Oecologia 130:551-554.

  • Biosystems Analysis, Inc. 1989. Endangered Species Alert Program Manual: Species Accounts and Procedures. Southern California Edison Environmental Affairs Division.

  • 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.

  • Cook, D. 2002. Rana aurora draytonii. Predation. Herpetological Review 33:303.

  • Cook, D., and M. R. Jennings. 2001. Rana aurora draytonii. Predation. Herpetological Review 32:182-183.

  • 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.

  • Davidson, C., H. B. Shaffer, and M. R. Jennings. 2002. Spatial tests of the pesticide drift, habitat destruction, UV-B, and climate-change hypotheses for California amphibian declines. Conservation Biology 16:1588-1601.

  • 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.

  • Grismer, L. L. 2002. Amphibians and reptiles of Baja California including its Pacific islands and islands in the Sea of Cortes. University of California Press, Berkeley. xiii + 399 pp.

  • Hayes, M. P., and M. M. Miyamoto. 1984. Biochemical, behavioral and body size differences between RANA AURORA AURORA and R. A. DRAYTONI. Copeia 1984:1018-1022.

  • Hayes, M. P., and M. R. Jennings. 1988. Habitat correlates of distribution of the California red-legged frog (RANA AURORA) and the foothill yellow-legged frog (RANA BOYLII): implications for management. Pages 144-158 in Szaro, R.C., et al., technical coordinators. Management of amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals in North America. USDA For. Serv., Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-166.

  • 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.

  • Jones, L.L.C., W. P. Leonard, and D. H. Olson, editors. 2005. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington. xii + 227 pp.

  • Kiesecker, J. M., A. R. Blaustein, and L. K. Belden. 2001b. Complex causes of amphibian population declines. Nature 410:681-684.

  • Kiesecker, J. M., and A. R. Blaustein. 1998. Effects of introduced bullfrogs and smallmouth bass on microhabitat use, growth, and survival of native red-legged frogs (Rana aurora). Conservation Biology 12:776-787.

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

  • Lawler, S. P., D. Dritz, T. Strange, and M. Holyoak. 1999. Effects of introduced mosquitofish and bullfrogs on the threatened California red-legged frog. Conservation Biology 13:613-622.

  • Licht, L.E. 1971. Breeding habits and embryonic thermal requirements of the frogs, Rana aurora aurora and Rana pretiosa pretiosa, in the Pacific Northwest. Ecology 52(1):116-124.

  • Shaffer, H. B., G. M. Fellers, S. R. Voss, J. C. Oliver, and G. B. Pauly. 2004. Species boundaries, phylogeography and conservation genetics of the red-legged frog (Rana aurora/draytonii) complex. Molecular Ecology 13:2667-2777.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1985a. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. xiv + 336 pp.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 2003. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 11 September 2000. Proposed designation of critical habitat for the California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii). Federal Register 65(176):54892-54932.

  • 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.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 23 May 1996. Determination of threatened status for the California red-legged frog. Federal Register 61(101):25813-25833.

  • Zeiner, D.C., W.F. Laudenslayer, Jr., and K.E. Mayer, editors. 1988. Califonia's wildlife. Vol. I. Amphibians and reptiles. California Dept. Fish and Game, Sacramento. ix + 272 pp.

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