Rana sierrae - Camp, 1917
Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frog
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Rana sierrae Camp, 1917 (TSN 775211)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.802511
Element Code: AAABH01340
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: Vredenburg, V. T., R. Bingham, R. Knapp, J.A.T. Morgan, C. Moritz, and D. Wake. 2007. Concordant molecular and phenotypic data delineate new taxonomy and conservation priorities for the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog. Journal of Zoology 271:361-374.
Concept Reference Code: A07VRE01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Rana sierrae
Taxonomic Comments: Yellow-legged frog populations now recognized as Rana sierrae formerly were included in Rana muscosa. Vredenburg et al. (2007) examined phylogeography of Rana muscosa as defined by Stebbins (2003) and determined that R. muscosa occurs in the southern Sierra Nevada and in mountains to the south and that populations in the Sierra Nevada north of this range comprise a distinct species (Rana sierrae).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G2
Global Status Last Reviewed: 26Aug2013
Global Status Last Changed: 26Aug2013
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Occurs in the Sierra Nevada of California and (formerly) extreme western Nevada; numerous population declines and local extirpations have occurred and are ongoing; introduced trouts and chytrid fungal disease are major factors in the decline; vulnerable to further declines from the effects of climate change.
Nation: United States
National Status: N2 (26Aug2013)

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 California (S1), Nevada (SH)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (29Apr2014)
IUCN Red List Category: EN - Endangered

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Historical range extended from the Diamond Mountains northeast of the Sierra Nevada in Plumas County, and from just north of the Feather River in the extreme northwest region of the Sierra Nevada, California, south through the Sierra Nevada to Inyo County, California, and east to Mt. Rose, northeast of Lake Tahoe, in Washoe County, Nevada (Vredenburg et al. 2007). West of the Sierra Nevada crest, the southern part of the range is bordered by ridges that divide the Middle and South Fork of the Kings River, ranging from Mather Pass to the Monarch Divide; east of the Sierra Nevada crest, R. sierrae occurs in the Glass Mountains just south of Mono Lake (Mono County) and along the east slope of the Sierra Nevada south to the type locality at Matlock Lake (Inyo County) (Vredenburg et al. 2007). Rana sierrae is now extirpated from Nevada and from large portions of the historical range in the Sierra Nevada of California. Elevational range is 1,370-3,690 meters (Fellers et al. 2013).

Area of Occupancy: 126-500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Area of occupancy is uncertain but apparently encompasses well over one hundred 2 km x 2 km grid cells (see maps in California Department of Fish and Game 2011).

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Extensive surveys between 1995 and 2005 yielded only 11 occupied sites (Vredenburg et al. 2007).

California Department of Fish and Game (2011) determined that Rana sierrae currently occupies 1,199 sites across 94 USGS HU12 watersheds (a site was defined as a discrete pond, lake, reservoir, meadow, marsh, spring, or stream).

Population Size: 1000 - 10,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but may not exceed 10,000. Most populations are very small (fewer than 100 post-metamorphic frogs (not all of these are adults), but ten HU12 watershed units include 501-2,500 post-metamorphic individuals and two watershed untis include more than 2,500 (California Department of Fish and Game 2011).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very few to few (1-12)

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Decline has been attributed to the effects of the amphibian chytrid fungus, introduced trouts, pesticide exposure, or a combination of factors (e.g., Bradford 1989; Knapp and Matthews 2000; Fellers et al. 2001, 2013; Davidson et al. 2002; Davidson and Knapp 2007; Sodhi et al. 2008; Sparling and Fellers 2009; Briggs et al. 2010; Vredenburg et al. 2010; California Department of Fish and Game 2011).

Extensive surveys in the Sierra Nevada clearly demonstrate the strong detrimental impact of introduced trouts on R. muscosa/Rana sierrae populations (Bradford 1989, Knapp and Matthews 2000). Removal of non-native fishes (relatively easy in some Sierra Nevada lakes) might easily reverse the decline (Knapp and Matthews 2000).

Some declines have been associated with amphibian chytrid fungus (Vredenburg et al. 2010), but at least one population has remained relatively stable despite the presence of the fungus for many years (Fellers et al. 2013).

Davidson et al. (2002) found support for the hypothesis that airborne agrochemicals have played a significant role in the decline of frogs of the Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae complex, but subsequent study of pesticide presence versus yellow-legged frog population trends (Bradford et al. 2011) found no support for the hypothesis that pesticides have contributed to the population declines of R. muscosa and R. sierrae in the alpine zone of the southern Sierra Nevada.

Climate change may detrimentally affect this species if drought increases.

Wildfires, which may increase in extent, frequency, or intensity with climate change, also may result in habitat loss and degradation and presumably could result in extirpation or decreases of small localized yellow-legged frog populations.

See Bradford (1991) for information on mass mortality and extinction of a population due at least in part to red-leg disease and predation on metamorphics by Brewer's blackbird; reestablishment of the extirpated population probably will be prevented through predation by introduced fishes.

Frogs of the Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae complex are possibly but probably not threatened by sublethal effects of low pH and elevated levels of dissolved aluminum (Bradford et al. 1992).

Short-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%
Short-term Trend Comments: Area of occupancy, number of subpopulations and locations, and population size appear to have undergone a substantial decline over the past three generations (around three decades, since the early 1980s) (California Department of Fish and Game 2011).

Most populations appear to have declined, but a population in a low-elevation site in Yosemite National Park was relatively stable (45-115 adults) during the period 2003-2011 (Fellers et al. 2013).

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Long-term Trend Comments: A precipitous decline in Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae appears to have occurred over the past 3-4 decades (Bradford 1991, USFWS 1999). For the Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae complex as a whole, Jennings and Hayes (1994) mapped many more extirpated populations than extant populations. Rana sierrae has declined greatly in the Yosemite area of the Sierra Nevada, California (Drost and Fellers 1996). In the Sierra Nevada, recent surveys indicate that Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae has been reduced to a small number of widely scattered, mostly very small populations (fewer than 20 adults) (Knapp and Matthews 2000). Surveys in the 1990s indicated that the rangewide decline in distribution may be as much as 70-90 percent (USFWS 2000).

Of the 146 historical R. sierrae sites studied by Vredenburg et al. (2007), only 11 sites contained frogs when revisited between 1995 and 2005 (92 percent extirpation rate).

California Department of Fish and Game (2011) determined that Rana sierrae has been extirpated from 220 (69 percent) of 318 historical localities analyzed (i.e., with sufficient data) and from 55 (44 percent) of 124 historically occupied HU12 watersheds.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Introductions of non-native fishes in lakes and ponds should be avoided.

Distribution
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Global Range: (5000-20,000 square km (about 2000-8000 square miles)) Historical range extended from the Diamond Mountains northeast of the Sierra Nevada in Plumas County, and from just north of the Feather River in the extreme northwest region of the Sierra Nevada, California, south through the Sierra Nevada to Inyo County, California, and east to Mt. Rose, northeast of Lake Tahoe, in Washoe County, Nevada (Vredenburg et al. 2007). West of the Sierra Nevada crest, the southern part of the range is bordered by ridges that divide the Middle and South Fork of the Kings River, ranging from Mather Pass to the Monarch Divide; east of the Sierra Nevada crest, R. sierrae occurs in the Glass Mountains just south of Mono Lake (Mono County) and along the east slope of the Sierra Nevada south to the type locality at Matlock Lake (Inyo County) (Vredenburg et al. 2007). Rana sierrae is now extirpated from Nevada and from large portions of the historical range in the Sierra Nevada of California. Elevational range is 1,370-3,690 meters (Fellers et al. 2013).

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 CA, NV

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Alpine (06003), Amador (06005), Butte (06007), Calaveras (06009), El Dorado (06017), Fresno (06019), Inyo (06027), Madera (06039), Mariposa (06043), Mono (06051), Nevada (06057), Placer (06061), Plumas (06063), Sierra (06091), Tehama (06103)*, Tuolumne (06109), Yuba (06115)
NV Washoe (32031)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
16 Lake Tahoe (16050101)+, Truckee (16050102)+, Upper Carson (16050201)+, East Walker (16050301)+, West Walker (16050302)+
18 North Fork Feather (18020121)+, East Branch North Fork Feather (18020122)+, Middle Fork Feather (18020123)+, Upper Yuba (18020125)+, North Fork American (18020128)+, South Fork American (18020129)+, Big Chico Creek-Sacramento River (18020157)+*, Butte Creek (18020158)+*, Upper King (18030010)+, Upper San Joaquin (18040006)+, Upper Merced (18040008)+, Upper Tuolumne (18040009)+, Upper Stanislaus (18040010)+, Upper Calaveras (18040011)+*, Upper Mokelumne (18040012)+, Upper Cosumnes (18040013)+, Mono Lake (18090101)+, Crowley Lake (18090102)+, Owens Lake (18090103)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: At high elevations larvae overwinter up to 3-4 times before metamorphosis.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, High gradient, MEDIUM RIVER, Moderate gradient, Pool
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: The habitat of frogs of the Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae complex includes sunny river margins, meadow streams, isolated pools, and lake borders in the Sierra Nevada. Sierran frogs are most abundant in high elevation lakes and slow-moving portions of streams. They seldom are found away from water but may cross upland areas in moving between summer and winter habitats (Matthews and Pope 1999). Breeding success depands on perennial bodies of water because larave require mutliple years of development before metamorphosis. Wintering sites include areas near shore under ledges and in deep underwater crevices (Matthews and Pope 1999).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Adults of the Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae complex eat aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates and anuran larvae; availability of larval anuran prey may be an important factor in distribution, body condition, and survival of adults (Pope and Matthews 2002). Larvae eat algae, organic debris, plant tissue, and minute organisms in water.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Diurnal, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Inactive in cold temperatures. Primarily diurnal. Inactive 7-9 months each year at high elevations (Pope and Matthews 2002).
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: California Department of Fish and Game (2011) made the following conservation recommendations for Rana sierrae and Rana muscosa:

Continue resource assessment efforts, throughout the historical range, to discover previously unknown populations. Special focus should be given those watersheds that have not been surveyed within the past 10 years but have historical occurrences, or high probability of occurrence as determined by the species distribution model.

Continue to implement and support projects that stabilize existing populations and/or expand distribution within each of the six genetic clades, such as: removing non-native trout from targeted water bodies to benefit frog populations; identifying water bodies whose non-native fish population will likely expire naturally and provide fish free habitat for frog translocations; removing non-native trout from targeted water bodies to provide fish free habitat for frog translocations.

Continue to manage fisheries within the historical range of frogs in a manner that does not conflict with frog conservation goals, such as: halting fish stocking in areas harboring existing frog populations or in areas identified for native species management in an Aquatic Biodiversity Management Plan' evaluating current stocking techniques and protocols to minimize stocking related impacts on frogs; evaluating potential impacts to non-game species, via the PSEP process, as mandated by the Hatchery and Stocking Program Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement.

Continue monitoring frog population trends and Bd infection levels to establish long-term population baselines and evaluate conservation efforts.

Continue activities that support research directed at frog conservation goals, with special focus given research directed at translocating frogs in a Bd positive environment and captive breeding and rearing, such as: sharing California Department of Fish and Game data sets and analyses with the research community; collaborating with scientists to implement translocations in a manner appropriate to test a hypothesis; continuing to issue scientific collecting permits for research critical to the conservation and recovery of the frogs.

Restoration Potential: Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae populations that have been extirpated or reduced as a result of fish introduction can recover to predisturbance levels after fish disappear, if a nearby source population of frogs exists (Knapp et al. 2001). Several agencies (National Park Service, CDFG and U.S. Forest Service) have begun and/or planned recovery efforts involving removal of introduced fishes, and a number of populations have recovered (Vredenburg 2004).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Basins with a variety of deep lakes and shallow ponds may be the most appropriate reserves for this declining species (Pope and Matthews 2001).
Management Requirements: Conservation recommendations for the southern California population include: (1) Installation of signage along trails adjacent to occupied areas to encourage the public to remain on designated trails; (2) removal of picnic equipment or campsites (barbeque pits, picnic tables) adjacent to occupied areas; (3) organization of workshops to educate campground permittees about this population; (4) acquisition of habitat within private inholdings; (5) assignment of additional patrols to prevent illegal suction dredge mining within the Sheep Mountain Wilderness Area of Angeles National Forest; and (6) relocation of a trail adjacent to an area within Little Rock Canyon (USFWS 2002).

Translocation of adults in the Rana muscosa/Rana sierrae complex may not be an effective conservation tool; frogs may return to original capture site and are stressed by translocation (Matthews 2003).

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: 26Aug2013
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 26Aug2013
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
  • Bradford, D. F. 1989. Allotopic distribution of native fishes and introduced fishes in high Sierra Nevada lakes of California: implication of the negative effect of fish introductions. Copeia 1989:775-778.

  • Bradford, D. F. 1991. Mass mortality and extinction in a high-elevation population of RANA MUSCOSA. J. Herpetol. 25:174-177.

  • Bradford, D. F., C. Swanson, and M. S. Gordon. 1992. Effects of low pH and aluminum on two declining species of amphibians in the Sierra Nevada, California. J. Herpetol. 26:369-377.

  • Bradford, D. F., R. A. Knapp, D. W. Sparling, M. S. Nash, K. A. Stanley, N. G. Tallent-Halsell, L. L. McConnell, and S. M. Simonich. 2011. Pesticide distributions and population declines of California, USA, alpine frogs, Rana muscosa and Rana sierrae. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 30:682-691.

  • Briggs, C. J., R. A. Knapp, and V. T. Vredenburg. 2010. Enzootic and epizootic dynamics of the chytrid fungal pathogen of amphibians. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:9695-9700.

  • California Department of Fish and Game. 2011. A status review of the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae and Rana muscosa. Report to the Fish and Game Commission.

  • 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.

  • Davidson, C., and R. A. Knapp. 2007. Multiple stressors and amphibian declines: dual impacts of pesticides and fish on yellow-legged frogs. Ecological Applications 17:587-597.

  • Fellers, G. M., P. M. Kleeman, D.A.W. Miller, B. J. Halstead, and W. A. Link. 2013. Population size, survival, growth, and movements of Rana sierrae. Herpetologica 69:147-162.

  • Fellers, G.M., D.E. Green, and J.E. Longcore. 2001. Oral chytridiomycosis in the mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa). Copeia 4: 945-953.

  • 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.

  • Knapp, R. A. 2011. Challenges for species recovery in an age of multiple stressors: the mountain yellow-legged frog example. http://nctc.fws.gov/CSP/resources/native_aquatic_species_restoration/oct_2011/handouts/Knapp_ExtinctionWebinar2011.pdf

  • Knapp, R. A., K. R. Matthews, and O. Sarnelle. 2001. Resistance and resilience of alpine lake fauna to fish introductions. Ecological Monographs 71:401-421.

  • Knapp, R. A., and K. R. Matthews. 2000. Non-native fish introductions and the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog from within protected areas. Conservation Biology 14:428-438.

  • Rachowicz, L. J., R. A. Knapp, J.A.T. Morgan, M. J. Stice, V. T. Vredenburg, J. M. Parker, and C. J. Briggs. 2006. Emerging infectious disease as a proximate cause of amphibian mass mortality in Rana muscosa populations. Ecology 87: 1671-1683.

  • Sodhi, N. S., D. Bickford, A. C. Diesmos, T. M. Lee, L .P. Koh, B. W. Brook, C. H. Sekercioglu, and C.J.A. Bradshaw. 2008. Measuring the meltdown: drivers of global amphibian extinction and decline. PLoS ONE 3:e1636.

  • Sparling, D. W., and G. M. Fellers. 2009. Toxicity of two insecticides to California, USA, anurans and its relevance to declining amphibian populations. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 28:1696-1703

  • Vredenburg, V.T., R. A. Knapp, T. S. Tunstall, and C. J. Briggs. 2010. Dynamics of an emerging disease drive large-scale amphibian population extinctions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 107:9689-9694.

  • Vredenburg, V. T. 2004. Reversing introduced species effects: experimental removal of introduced fish leads to rapid recovery of a declining frog. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 101: 7646-7650.

  • Vredenburg, V. T., R. Bingham, R. Knapp, J.A.T. Morgan, C. Moritz, and D. Wake. 2007. Concordant molecular and phenotypic data delineate new taxonomy and conservation priorities for the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog. Journal of Zoology 271:361-374.

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