Lithobates sevosus - (Goin and Netting, 1940)
Dusky Gopher Frog
Other English Common Names: Mississippi Gopher Frog, dusky gopher frog
Synonym(s): Rana capito sevosa ;Rana sevosa Goin and Netting, 1940
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Lithobates sevosus (Goin and Netting, 1940) (TSN 775113)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103781
Element Code: AAABH01310
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Frogs and Toads
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Anura Ranidae Lithobates
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Young, J. E., and B. I. Crother. 2001. Allozyme evidence for the separation of Rana areolata and Rana capito and for the resurrection of Rana sevosa. Copeia 2001(2):382-388.
Concept Reference Code: ANDYOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Rana sevosa
Taxonomic Comments: Rana sevosa formerly was included in Rana areolata and Rana capito. The scope of Rana sevosa is not the same as the traditionally recognized subspecies Rana areolata sevosa or Rana capito sevosa (Young 1997, Young and Crother 2001). Young (1997) and Young and Crother (2001) examined genetic variation in Rana capito (sensu lato) from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina and found that populations from Harrison County, Mississippi (the only known population of gopher frogs remaining in the area between Louisiana and the Mobile River delta) were genetically distinct from populations east of the Mobile River drainage (fixed difference at a single locus). Young and Crother (2001) resurrected Rana sevosa as a distinct species. "No other specific taxonomic divisions could be determined among the remaining populations of gopher frogs sampled" (USFWS 2000).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1
Global Status Last Reviewed: 21Nov2018
Global Status Last Changed: 26Nov2001
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Formerly occurred in the Coastal Plain from Alabama to Mississippi and Louisiana; now known from a very small area in Mississippi; threatened by habitat destruction and degradation from a proposed housing development, construction and expansion of two highways, and a proposed reservoir.
Nation: United States
National Status: N1 (26Oct2000)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SH), Louisiana (SH), Mississippi (S1)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (04Dec2001)
Comments on USESA: Previously listed Endangered as Rana capito sevosa, accepted as a species, R. sevosa, by FWS in June, 2012.

USFWS (June 3, 2010) proposed to designate critical habitat for the Mississippi gopher frog under the Endangered Species Act. A total of 792 hectares (1,957 acres) in 11 units are proposed for critical habitat designation. The proposed critical habitat is located within Forrest, Harrison, Jackson, and Perry Counties, Mississippi.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast
IUCN Red List Category: CR - Critically endangered

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: <100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Historically occurred on the Coastal Plain from eastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi to the Mobile River delta in Alabama; now known only to occur in Harrison and Jackson counties in Mississippi (USFWS 2000, 2001; Young and Crother 2001; S. Richter, pers. comm., 2004).

Area of Occupancy: 3-5 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: There are 6477 acres of critical habitat designated, 27% of which is occupied (=1748 acres or 7 km2 divided among 4 populations) (USFWS 2015)

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
Number of Occurrences Comments: Three wild-occurring populations (Glen's Pond, Mike's Pond, McCoy's Pond) supported by four breeding ponds + one population established through translocation of Glen's Pond frogs (USFWS 2015).

Population Size: Unknown

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very few (1-3)
Viability/Integrity Comments: "The Glen's Pond population, supported by the Glen's Pond and Pony Ranch Pond breeding sites, is the only population that is considered stable at this time" (USFWS 2015, p.7)

Overall Threat Impact: Very high - high
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Range has declined primarily due to urbanization, conversion of longleaf pine habitat to pine plantations and agriculture, and conversion of open-canopy, temporary ponds to more permanent, closed-canopy ponds (USFWS 2001). Current threats include habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation due to a proposed housing development and construction and expansion of roads near the only known breeding site (USFWS 2001).

The little remaining longleaf pine habitat is usually degraded second-growth forest (Boyce and Martin 1993, Ware et al. 1993). Many areas have been converted to dense monocultures of sand, loblolly, or slash pine (Boyce and Martin 1993, Ware et al. 1993). The remaining breeding pond and most of the adult habitat are located on the DeSoto National Forest (DNF), most of which has been converted to slash pine or loblolly pine. Land management practices have altered the soil horizon, forest litter, herbaceous community, and occurrence of downed trees and stumps used as frog refugia. Breeding sites have been degraded by timber site preparation methods that alter existing hydrology, domestic animal grazing, clearing and draining for agricultural or urban uses, ditching, soil disturbance, and fire exclusion.

Fire suppression has degraded most historical habitat. Without fire, woody vegetation replaces the open, herbaceous character typical of suitable breeding ponds. In addition, fire releases nutrients bound in plant material. Release of nutrients results in a flush of primary productivity that is important to the herbivorous gopher frog tadpoles.

Expanding urbanization has degraded several historical sites. The land immediately north of the only known breeding site is slated for development as a retirement community and commercial area. Previous management of the area has left much of it unsuitable as gopher frog habitat.

Breeding sites have been degraded by roads, which are sources of sediment and petrochemicals during rainstorms. Poorly designed roads can act as dams and increase pond permanence, to the detriment of gopher frogs.

Off-road vehicles (ORVs) can kill tadpoles and adults (J. Jensen, pers. comm., 1996), disrupt pond floor contours, eliminate herbaceous vegetation, and alter hydrology (LaClaire, pers. obs., 1995). Loss of herbaceous vegetation could discourage reproduction, since egg masses are attached to stems of herbaceous vegetation (Bailey 1990, Palis 1995). ORV tracks have been documented in the remaining breeding site (G. Johnson, pers. comm., 1994).

Insecticides and herbicides may pose a threat. Aquatic larvae are likely most vulnerable. Adults could be affected by pesticides accumulated in their prey. If a golf course is built in the drainage area of the remaining breeding pond, as proposed, chemicals in runoff could pose a significant threat to frogs and habitat.

Predation may be a threat. Temporary ponds altered to be more permanent often are stocked with bass and sunfish, which prey on frog larvae. Introduction of predatory fishes has caused declines in gopher frog populations in Alabama (M. Bailey, pers. comm., 1995). Construction of drainage ditches and firebreaks into ponds may provide avenues for introduction of fishes into breeding sites. Significant egg mortality due to predation by caddisfly larvae has been documented, but population impacts are unknown (Richter and Seigel 1997, USFWS 2001).

Low reproductive potential may also represent a threat. Females may not breed until 2-3 years old and may breed only in alternate years and/or only once in their lifetime (Richter and Seigel 1997). In addition, metamorph survival may be extremely low. Drought can result in complete reproductive failure (Young et al. 1995; Richter and Seigel 1997) and if prolonged may eliminate local populations.

Studies of other ranid frogs (e.g., Berven and Grudzien 1990) suggest that many populations show strong metapopulation structure. Adults are faithful to breeding sites, but juveniles may disperse to new breeding areas before reaching maturity. Hence, reproductive failure at one pond can be offset by recruitment at another site. Such a strategy also leads to a lower probability of genetic isolation and inbreeding (Stacey et al. 1997). Because there is only one known breeding site, the remaining population is highly susceptible to genetic isolation, inbreeding, and random demographic events. Habitat fragmention around the remaining population has reduced opportunities for population interchanges should habitats and populations in the region be restored.

Much of this information is from USFWS (2001) and a 1998 "Candidate and Listing Priority Assignment Form" by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)

Long-term Trend: Decline of >50%

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: "Viability of the population is contingent on consistent recruitment of juveniles with minimal years of reproductive failure" (Richter and Seigel 2002).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Protect breeding sites and surrounding uplands. Encourage actions that enhance gopher tortoise populations.

Distribution
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Global Range: (<100 square km (less than about 40 square miles)) Historically occurred on the Coastal Plain from eastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi to the Mobile River delta in Alabama; now known only to occur in Harrison and Jackson counties in Mississippi (USFWS 2000, 2001; Young and Crother 2001; S. Richter, pers. comm., 2004).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, LA, MS

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
LA St. Tammany (22103)*
MS Forrest (28035)*, Harrison (28047), Jackson (28059)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Pascagoula (03170006)+, Black (03170007)+*, Escatawpa (03170008)+, Mississippi Coastal (03170009)+, Lower Pearl. Mississippi (03180004)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A gopher frog.
General Description: A stubby frog with dorsolateral ridges, uniformly dark above or with irregular dorsal spots lacking light borders; throat and belly region generally pigmented, often heavily so (though the young have less spotting, especially on the abdomen); warts prominent on dorsum; generally 6-9 cm snout-vent length (Conant and Collins 1991).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from RANA CAPITO AESOPUS in having a darker dorsum and more prominent warts. Differs from RANA CAPITO CAPITO in have larger warts (Conant and Collins 1991).
Reproduction Comments: Adults move to the breeding site in association with heavy rains, usually January-late March (USFWS 2001). Age of maturity is 6-8 months in males and 24-36 months in females; annual survival ranged from 65-92 percent, but the rate at which adults returned to breed among years was 16-22 percent; the avergae number of seasons in which adults bred was 1.2, but nine individuals bred in 3-5 seasons; population turnover rate is high, most adults live less than seven years (Richter and Seigel 2002).
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Twelve individuals made postbreeding movements that took them 50-300 m from the breeding pond center to terrestrial refugia (Richter et al. 2001). Dry conditions that likely limited movements in this study, and information on gopher frog movements in other locations suggest that longer movements of up to 2 km are probable (see USFWS 2001).
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND, TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Woodland - Conifer
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Habitat includes both upland sandy habitats historically forested with longleaf pine and isolated temporary wetland breeding sites imbedded within this forested landscape. This frog spends the majority of its life in or near underground refugia and historically used gopher tortoise burrows for this purpose (Allen 1932). The one remaining population occurs in an area presently lacking gopher tortoises, although tortoises probably occurred historically in the area and do occur nearby. Refugia include abandoned mammal burrows and holes in and under old stumps (LaClaire, pers. obs., 1996; Richter and Seigel 1997, Richter et al. 2001).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 11 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Conservation efforts are focused on habitat restoration and enhancement of occupied breeding ponds, terrestrial refuge sites, and other nearby wetlands to help promote metapopulation expansion (Richter et al. 2001). Dusky Gopher Frogs are reliant on isolated, fishless ponds with open canopies and seasonal drying cycles for breeding. Management of breeding sites has focused on maintaining canopy openness, emergent vegetation and absence of predatory fish, along with artificially controlling hydroperiods when necessary and possible (USFWS 2012a, 2015).

Providing connectivity (e.g., open canopy with adequate native grass/herbaceous cover to prevent dessication) between terrestrial upland habitats and breeding sites is a critical management consideration for Dusky Gopher Frogs. Dusky Gopher Frogs spend much of their lives in subterranean refugia within open-canopied pine forest. Their optimal underground habitat is associated with Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus Polyphemus) burrows (Richter et al. 2001). Gopher tortoises are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and they, like the Dusky Gopher Frog, have experienced declines across their range within Gulf Coastal Plain Longleaf Pine Savannas. Reintroducing Gopher Tortoises is expected to enhance Dusky Gopher Frog recovery efforts.

Historically, fire has had a critical role in maintaining pine communities and thereby Dusky Gopher Frog habitat. Prescribed burning is used in pine forest/savanna restoration within the range of the Dusky Gopher Frog, however, residential and commercial development has limited prescribed burn use due to smoke management issues and other related concerns.

A coalition of zoos led by the Mempis Zoo are developing techniques to effectively breed Dusky Gopher Frogs in captivity. In addition to frogs ?headstarted? in outdoor tanks adjacent to extant breeding sites used to supplement extant populations, captive-raised frogs will be used to help maintain genetic diversity, augment extant breeding locales, and establish new populations (USFWS 2012b).

Management Requirements: Richter et al. (2001) recommended establishment of a 1000-m protected buffer around the primary breeding site and each of two other potential breeding ponds.

Recent growing-season burns around the remaining breeding pond have improved habitat conditions, but the frequency and extent of burning need to be improved.

Biological Research Needs: Determine basic life history, larval ecology, and population genetics, and the degree to which tortoise burrows are used for shelter (Bailey 1990).
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: 21Nov2018
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Clausen, M. K., G. Hammerson, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2011); Schuhmann, A. (2018)
Management Information Edition Date: 03Dec2018
Management Information Edition Author: Schuhmann, A.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 07Feb2003
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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