Lithobates tarahumarae - (Boulenger, 1917)
Tarahumara Frog
Synonym(s): Rana tarahumarae Boulenger, 1917
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Lithobates tarahumarae (Boulenger, 1917) (TSN 775118)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.104866
Element Code: AAABH01210
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: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Rana tarahumarae
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 07Dec2017
Global Status Last Changed: 07Dec2017
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G2 - Imperiled
Reasons: Known from southern Arizona (extirpated by 1983, reestablished populations have disappeared or remain highly vulnerable) and northwestern Mexico (some healthy populations still remain); cause of decline is uncertain, likely related to at least in part to chytridiomycosis (fungal disease). Heavy metal pollutants, stream acidification, exotic predators, severe drought, climate change, consequent flooding, introduced predators, and winter cold are also threats. 
Nation: United States
National Status: NX (07Dec2017)

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 Arizona (SX,S1)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: VU - Vulnerable

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Occurs in the Sierra Madre Occidental and sky island mountain ranges west of the continental divide (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002, Rorabaugh 2013). The historical range of this species included Arizona (Santa Rita Mountains, Atascosa-Pajarito-Tumacacori mountain complex), Sonora, and Chihuahua (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002): extreme south-central Arizona (known from Tinaja and Sycamore canyons; near Pena Blanca Springs and Alamo Spring; Gardner, Blanca, and Adobe canyons; Rio Altar and Santa Cruz drainages), south in Sierra Madre Occidental to northern Sinaloa and southwestern Chihuahua, Mexico, at elevations from 460-1,860 m (Bury et al. 1980, Stebbins 1985). It has recently been extirpated from the United States and from certain localities in northern Sonora in Mexico. Most occurrences are in the mountains of eastern Sonora (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002). It was last seen in the United States in 1983 (Clarkson and Rorabaugh 1989, Schwalbe 1993).

Area of Occupancy:  
Area of Occupancy Comments: Inhabits rocky streams and plunge pools in canyons and arroyos, and occurs at elevations of 460-1860 m (Rorabaugh 2013). 

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: Known from about 70 localities (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002, Rorabaugh 2013). From 1974-1986 most known and probable localities were surveyed; 42 populations including 5 in Arizona and 37 in Mexico were repeatedly visited; by the mid-1980s all Arizona populations and 3 Mexican populations were extirpated. As of the mid-1980s, 34 healthy, reproductively active populations occurred in isolated pockets in northern Mexico (Hale and Jarchow 1988). 

Populations in Arizona were found in three drainages in the Santa Rita Mountains and three drainages in the Pajarito-Atascosa-Tumacacori mountains complex in Santa Cruz County, all were extirpated by 1983. reintroductions have occurred since, some failed, some successful, but all reintroduced populations remain small in an area less than about 3.3 square kilometers (Rorabaugh 2013, Jim Rorabaugh, pers. comm. 2017). As of 2017, there are two refugia in Arizona: one at the International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, and the other in canyon in the Castle Dome Mountains, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona (Rorabaugh 2013). Frogs were reestablished in the Santa Rita Mountains, but have not been seen since 2013 (Rorabaugh 2013). West of Nogales, Arizona in the Pajarito Mountains, they were repatriated to Sycamore Canyon in 2014, with over 500 frogs released. In 2015, only 3 larvae and 7 juveniles were observed. They are historical from Summit Reservoir area, Alamo Canyon, Pena Blanca Canyon, and possibly still extant in Walker Canyon, were the last observation was in 2007. They are also historical from Tinaja Canyon in the Tumacacori Mountains. Plans underway to reestablish populations at additional historical localities in Arizona.

Population Size: Unknown

Overall Threat Impact: Very high - medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Populations have declined and gone extinct throughout historical range. Cause of the extirpations is thought to be due to one or more of the following: exposure to heavy metal poisoning (particularly cadmium and other agents); stream acidification; severe drought; flooding; introduced predaceous fish (green sunfish and bluegill) and bullfrogs (now apparently replaced by the bullfrog in the Pena Blanca area in Arizona; Clarkson and Rorabaugh 1989); chytridiomycosis (fungal disease); winter cold (Hale and Jarchow 1988, Rorabaugh 2013). 

Short-term Trend: Decline of >30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Rorabaugh (2013) details population declines and reintroduction efforts up through 2013 (https://tucsonherpsociety.org/inhabitants/tarahumara-frog/). 

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-50%
Long-term Trend Comments: Numbers declined seriously in the late 1970s; last individual known in Arizona was found dead in the Santa Ritas in 1983 (Arizona Game and Fish Dept. 1996). Two of the five extirpated Arizona populations were healthy and reproducing only a decade earlier. By the mid-1980s at least four of nine populations were extirpated from Sonora; approximately 60% of the southern historical range in Sonora represented by healthy, stable populations (Hale and Jarchow 1988). Comprehensive review of Tarahumara frog conservation status under development now (Jim Rorabaugh, pers. comm. 2017).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow to narrow.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Monitor population numbers and trends at known localities.

Distribution
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Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Occurs in the Sierra Madre Occidental and sky island mountain ranges west of the continental divide (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002, Rorabaugh 2013). The historical range of this species included Arizona (Santa Rita Mountains, Atascosa-Pajarito-Tumacacori mountain complex), Sonora, and Chihuahua (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002): extreme south-central Arizona (known from Tinaja and Sycamore canyons; near Pena Blanca Springs and Alamo Spring; Gardner, Blanca, and Adobe canyons; Rio Altar and Santa Cruz drainages), south in Sierra Madre Occidental to northern Sinaloa and southwestern Chihuahua, Mexico, at elevations from 460-1,860 m (Bury et al. 1980, Stebbins 1985). It has recently been extirpated from the United States and from certain localities in northern Sonora in Mexico. Most occurrences are in the mountains of eastern Sonora (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002). It was last seen in the United States in 1983 (Clarkson and Rorabaugh 1989, Schwalbe 1993).

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: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AZextirpated

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)
AZ Pima (04019)*, Santa Cruz (04023)*, Yuma (04027)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
15 Upper Santa Cruz (15050301)+*, Rillito (15050302)+*, Lower Gila (15070201)+*, Rio De La Concepcion (15080200)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A frog.
Reproduction Comments: In Arizona, breeding takes place betweeen July and August. Breeding occurs during the summer rains.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, High gradient, Moderate gradient, Pool, Riffle, SPRING/SPRING BROOK
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: This species inhabits rocky/gravelly streams and banks in areas of oak or pine-oak woodland or Sinaloan thornscrub and tropical deciduous forest on the edge of the desert (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002); typically associated with canyons and deep plunge pools; found on banks of plunge pools or in riffles. During the dry season it is found at quiet pools and springs. It is usually in or near water, but may take cover under rocks or in cliff crevices. Favorable breeding sites include areas with low mean flows (less than 0.2 cfs) and relatively steep gradients (more than 160 feet/mile); permanent water is probably necessary for metamorphosis (Rorabaugh and Humphrey 2002).
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Adults mainly invertivorous. Larvae eat algae, organic debris, plant tissue, and minute organisms in water.
Adult Phenology: Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Inactive in cold temperatures.
Length: 11 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Lithobates tarahumarae inhabits rocky streams and plunge pools in canyons and arroyos that occur in tropical deciduous forest, foothills thornscrub, semi-desert grassland, oak woodland, and pine-oak woodland throughout the Sierra Madre Occidental and adjacent sky island mountain ranges west of the continental divide (Rorabaugh 2013).  This species has declined across its historical range, with a number of populations having disappeared. It became extirpated in Arizona by 1983. Reintroduction efforts have since attempted to reestablish historical populations in Arizona, but these populations have disappeared or remain highly vulnerable (Rorabaugh 2013, Jim Rorabaugh, pers. comm. 2017). Refugia populations have been established in Arizona at the International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, and a canyon in the Castle Dome Mountains, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona (Rorabaugh 2013). Some healthy populations appear to remain in northwestern Mexico, but information seems less available for these populations. Rorabaugh (2013) details population declines and reintroduction efforts up through 2013 (https://tucsonherpsociety.org/inhabitants/tarahumara-frog/). A comprehensive review of Tarahumara frog conservation status is being developed now (Jim Rorabaugh, pers. comm. 2017).

Population declines are likely due at least in part to chytridiomycosis (fungal disease) (Rorabaugh 2013). Additional threats include heavy metal pollutants, stream acidification, exotic predators, severe drought, climate change, flooding, introduced predators, and winter cold (Rorabaugh 2013, Garcia 2017). Recent high intensity fire has caused flooding and degradation of habitat (Rorabaugh 2013). Increased fire frequency and intensity is predicted to occur, and is already occurring, throughout the species? range with climate change. L. tarahumarae is not listed as a threatened or endangered species in the US or Mexico, although Arizona Game and Fish Department prohibits collection of this species, under Order 41

Management and research needs include: 1) monitoring of population trends at known sites throughout the U.S. and Mexico; 2) monitor demography, survival, and long-term success of translocated populations; 3) determine major drivers of population declines and extirpations, including disease and toxins; 4) protection of habitat.

Biological Research Needs: Determine cause of declines.
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: 07Dec2017
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Clausen, M. K., and G. Hammerson 2003; Rev. Davidson, A.D. (2017)
Management Information Edition Date: 07Dec2017
Management Information Edition Author: Davidson, A.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 04Nov2003
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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  • Arizona Game and Fish Department. 1996. Wildlife of special concern in Arizona (public review draft). Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. 40 pp.

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  • Bradley, G.A., Rosen, P.C., Sredl, M.J., Jones, T.R. and Longcore, J.E. 2002. Chytridiomycosis in native Arizona frogs. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 38:206-212.

  • Bury, R. B., C. K. Dodd, Jr., and G. M. Fellers. 1980. Conservation of the Amphibia of the United States: a review. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., Resource Publication 134. 34 pp.

  • Clarkson W.R. and Rorabaugh, J.C. 1989. Status of leopard frogs (Rana pipiens complex:Ranidae) in Arizona and southeastern California. Southwestern Naturalist 34:531-538.

  • Clarkson, R. W., and J. C. Rorabauch. 1989. Status of leopard frogs (Rana pipiens complex: Ranidae) in Arizona and southeastern California. Southwest. Nat. 34:531-538.

  • Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.

  • Frost, D. R. 2002. Amphibian Species of the World: an online reference. V2.21 (15 July 2002). Electronic database available at http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/index.html.

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  • Hale, S.F 2001. The status of the Tarahumara frog in Sonora, Mexico based on a re-survey of selected localities, and search for additional populations. Report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Phoenix, Arizona.

  • Hale, S.F. and Jarchow, R.J.D. 1988. The status of the tarahumara frog (Rana tarahumarae) in the United States and Mexico Part II. Arizona game and Fish Department and Region. Office of Endangered Species. U. S. Fish & Wildlife Se.

  • Hale, S.F. and May, C.J. 1983. Status report for Rana tarahumarae Boulenger. Report to the Office of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

  • Hale, S.F., Ferguson, G.M., Holm, P.A. and Wirt, E.B. 1998. Re-survey of selected Tarahumara frog (Rana tarahumara) localities in northern Sonora, Mexico, in May 1998. Report to the Arizona Zoological Society and the Tarahumara Frog Conservation Team.

  • Hale, S.F., Retes, F. and Van Devender, T.R. 1977. New populations of Rana tarahumarae (Tarahumara frog) in Arizona. Journal of the Arizona Academy of Science. 11:134-135.

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