Lithobates sphenocephalus - (Cope, 1886)
Southern Leopard Frog
Other English Common Names: southern leopard frog
Synonym(s): Rana sphenocephala Cope, 1889
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Lithobates sphenocephalus (Cope, 1886) (TSN 775116)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.104396
Element Code: AAABH01220
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 sphenocephala
Taxonomic Comments: An older name, Rana utricularia (unjustifiably changed from the original Rana utricularius Harlan), was applied to this species by Pace (1974), and subsequently by various other authors, upsetting the long-standing use of the name sphenocephala; there is substantial doubt that Harlan meant to apply the name utricularius to this species and not to what is now known as Rana pipiens; because the apparent misinterpretations made by Pace (1974) have led to an uncertainty as to which name should be used, the ICZN was petitioned to give precedence to sphenocephala over utricularius whenever the two names are considered to be synonyms (see Brown et al. 1990 and references cited therein for a detailed account of this issue). In 1992, the ICZN ruled that sphenocephala has precedence over utricularius whenever the two names are considered to be synonyms (Bull. Zool. Nomen. 49(2):171-173). Pace (1974) and Collins (1990) regarded the peninsular Florida population as a subspecies (Rana utricularia sphenocephala) distinct from (but intergrading with) the subspecies to the north (Rana utricularia utricularia). According to Brown et al. (1990), the basis for regarding populations in these areas to be separate subspecies is mistaken. Hillis and Davis (1986) examined the evolutionary history of Rana using rDNA analyses but did not address the problem of the taxonomic status of Florida populations of R. sphenocephala, nor did the biochemical analyses of Case (1978).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 31Dec2002
Global Status Last Changed: 26Nov2001
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)

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 (S5), Arkansas (S5), Delaware (S5), District of Columbia (S2S3), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S5), Indiana (S4), Iowa (S4), Kansas (S5), Kentucky (S5), Louisiana (S5), Maryland (S4S5), Mississippi (S5), Missouri (S5), New Jersey (S5), New York (SU), North Carolina (S5), Oklahoma (S5), Pennsylvania (S1), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (S5), Texas (S5), Virginia (S4)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range includes the lowlands of the southeastern United States, from southern New York to the Florida Keys, and west to eastern Kansas, central Oklahoma, and eastern Texas (Conant and Collins 1991). Introduced on Little Bahama Bank (Schwartz and Henderson 1991). Hybridizes with Rana blairi along the Missouri River floodplain in Missouri (Parris 1999).

Number of Occurrences:  
Number of Occurrences Comments: Represented by many and/or large occurrences throughout most of the range.

Population Size Comments: This is the most abundant frog in Florida (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). Abundant in eastern Texas (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). Widespread and locally abundant in Illinois range (Phillips et al. 1999).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Traffic on roads near ponds may be a local threat. Palis (1994, Herpetol. Rev. 25:119) reported large numbers of road-killed individuals adjacent to a pond in Florida. Within a single population, families of leopard frogs vary in their tolerance to the insecticide carbaryl (Bridges and Semlitsch 2001).

Short-term Trend Comments: Population trend is unknown but probably stable to slightly declining.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, likely less than 25% decline in in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences. Populations in Indiana have not undergone the drastic decline in numbers that has occurred in Rana pipiens (Minton 2001).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate to broad.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)) Range includes the lowlands of the southeastern United States, from southern New York to the Florida Keys, and west to eastern Kansas, central Oklahoma, and eastern Texas (Conant and Collins 1991). Introduced on Little Bahama Bank (Schwartz and Henderson 1991). Hybridizes with Rana blairi along the Missouri River floodplain in Missouri (Parris 1999).

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, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA

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)
PA Bucks (42017), Chester (42029)*, Delaware (42045), Philadelphia (42101)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Crosswicks-Neshaminy (02040201)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+, Brandywine-Christina (02040205)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: Southern leopard frogs are green or brown, usually with irregularly spaced rounded dark spots on the back and a few dark spots on the sides of the body. A continuous usually yellowish ridge extends along each side of the back. The head is pointed, and usually there is a light spot in the center of the eardrum. The hind toes are extensively webbed. Maximum size is around 5.1 inches (13 cm) snout-vent length. Breeding males have vocal sacs at the angles of the jaw; the sacs are spherical when inflated. The forelimbs of mature amles are more massive than those of females, and the base of the thumb is larger in males than in females. The breeding call is a short chuckling or ratchetlike trill. Larvae have faint to dark mottling on the body and tail, and the eyes are positioned on top of head, not at the margin of the head, when viewed from above. Maximum size of larvae is about 3 inches (7.6 cm) in total length. Egg masses are baseball sized when the jelly is fully expanded and contain roughly 1,000-1,500 eggs.
Reproduction Comments: Breeding occurs usually in March-June in the northern part of the range and in any month in the far south (but often November-March with filling of ephemeral ponds) (Doody and Young 1995, J. Herpetol. 29:614-616). Individual females deposit globular masses of up to several thousand eggs. Larvae hatch in a few to several days, metamorphose in summer or fall, or may overwinter and metamorphose the following year. Relatively small differences in hydroperiod can have large effects on juvenile recruitment (Ryan and Winne 2001).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Migrates between breeding pools and adjacent nonbreeding terrestrial habitats.
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, Pool
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, FORESTED WETLAND, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND, TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic
Habitat Comments: Southern leopard frogs occur in the vicinity of virtually any freshwater habitat and in some locations inhabit slightly brackish marshes. In summer they may disperse from water into moist upland vegetation. Breeding occurs in still, shallow, permanent or temporary waters of many kinds. Males call usually from shallow or deep water while floating or submerged, sometimes while hidden in crayfish burrows. Egg masses may be attached to vegetation or float free in shallow water.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Metamorphosed frogs eat various small invertebrates, mainly terrestrial arthropods; rarely small vertebrates. Larvae eat suspended matter, algae, plant tissue, organic debris, and probably some small invertebrates.
Adult Phenology: Crepuscular, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Crepuscular, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Southern leopard frogs are inactive during cold weather in winter in the northern part of the range.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 13 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Ranid Frogs

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

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

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

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

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

Date: 01Apr2005
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 26Jan2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 26Jan2010
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).

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"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE."

Citation for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
Patterson, B.D., G. Ceballos, W. Sechrest, M.F. Tognelli, T. Brooks, L. Luna, P. Ortega, I. Salazar, and B.E. Young. 2003. Digital Distribution Maps of the Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Mammal Range Maps of North America:
"Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy-Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International-CABS, World Wildlife Fund-US, and Environment Canada-WILDSPACE."

Citation for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2004. Global Amphibian Assessment. IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe, Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Acknowledgement Statement for Amphibian Range Maps of the Western Hemisphere:
"Data developed as part of the Global Amphibian Assessment and provided by IUCN-World Conservation Union, Conservation International and NatureServe."

NOTE: Full metadata for the Bird Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/birdDistributionmapsmetadatav1.pdf.

Full metadata for the Mammal Range Maps of North America is available at:
http://www.natureserve.org/library/mammalsDistributionmetadatav1.pdf.

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