Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Plains Leopard Frog

A few months ago a good friend of mine noticed that his little garden pond had attracted some frogs. He ended up taking the following picture and sending it to me. As it turns out, these are Plains Leopard Frogs:

The picture is shrunk a little to fit in this space, but there are at least 5 frogs visible there (click to enlarge). The Plains Leopard Frog (Rana blairi) is named after Frank Blair, a fairly famous Texas herpetologist. Leopard frogs, in general, are present all over North America, but generally seem intolerant of pollution and habitat disturbance. There are actually several species of leopard frog, but there appears to be hybridization occurring between those species as the geographic and habitat barriers that had separated them are being removed by humans.

Leopard frogs sing for mates for a long time each year. According to Collins (1995) they may begin as early as February and continue throughout the summer. I can't think of a good way to describe their call in'll just have to go find a pond and listen. The species is a water obligate, although they appear to forage on primarily terrestrial species. Habitat destruction and the widespread use of pesticides appear to be causing a wide-spread decline in this species.

I've found that garden ponds are generally readily used by amphibians as breeding sites, especially in Western Kansas where water is increasingly unavailable. My in-laws little pond (maybe 10 square feet surface area), attracts lots of Great Plains Toads that would otherwise remain hibernating through what has been an extended drought in the area. I'm sure the population density of those toads has increased dramatically since they built the pond. I wonder whether the leopard frogs will use my friend's garden pond in a similar manner. Unlike toads, which are often toxic, the Leopard frog tadpoles are highly susceptible to fish predation, but my friend doesn't keep any fish in his pond.


Anonymous said...

While I know that I'm being nit picky I wouldn't want my brother-in-law sharing inaccurate information.
My parents' pond is actually a happy breeding ground for the "Woodhouse Toad" not the "Great Plains Toad". I would love for the GP Toad to breed there but every time we have collected them and introduced them to a the pond they simply leave. This is also true for the Western Spadefoot Toad. I suspect that the temperature is to high in the pond (rain puddles are much colder) and/or the turbidity is to low to stimulate the breeding response for the GP or Spadefoot Toads.
Another note about the Woodhouse and GP toads. I have found that they are quite active even during drier periods. These species do not spend nearly as much time burrowed away as Spadefoots.
Last is always cool to see what shows up in Western Kansas when a bit of water stays around for a while.

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