Lithobates areolatus areolatusSouthern Crawfish Frog

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Geographic Range

Lithobates areolatus areolatus is found in the central to southern region of the United States. There are 3 subspecies of R. areolata. They are R. a. areolata (crawfish frog), R. a. circulosa (crayfish frog), and R. a. aesopus (gopher frog). The different subspecies of R. areolata are found in generally the same area, around the Mississippi Valley. Rana areolata areolata is found in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and Kansas. Rana areolata circulosa is found in the states of Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Rana areolata aesopus is found in Florida. (Dickerson, Mary C., 1908; Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, May 21, 1997; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1942; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1995)

Habitat

Grasslands, prairies, and woodlands are areas where R. areolata is most likely to be encountered. However, it is hard to find R. areolata because it lives underground most of the year in old, vacant burrows of other animals. The opening of these burrows are about 76.2 mm wide and are usually covered with grass. However, during the mating season, R. areolata resides near river floodplains, ponds, and lakes. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999; Ken Crawford and Jeff Warwick, January 11, 2001; Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, May 21, 1997; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1942)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

The length of the adult R. areolata is between 63.5 and 114.3 mm. It has a large head, which is 1/3 of its body size. This frog has large eyes and its ears are anywhere from 1/2 - 2/3 the size of its eye. Lithobates areolatus areolatus is short and stout, and its body is a grayish or brownish color with spots. These spots range in size from small to large, they are a darker shade of brown than the body, and they are outlined in a lighter shade of tan. The hidden parts of the legs, feet, and groin area are a yellowish color, while its belly is white. The skin on the back of R. areolata is warty and has a rough feel to it. Lithobates areolatus areolatus has long, well-developed hind legs. The length of the frog's strong legs is equal to the distance between the leg and the eye of the frog, or its nostril. Lithobates areolatus areolatus has 4 digits connected to its legs, and the fourth is quite long and is not webbed together with the other 3 digits. The male's thumb is slightly enlarged compared to that of the female. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1942; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1995)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Range length
    63.5 to 114.3 mm
    2.50 to 4.50 in

Development

The female lays anywhere from 3,000 - 7,000 eggs in a large mass. The female usually lays its eggs in shallow water, near tall grass. Upon hatching, the tadpole is anywhere from 38.1 - 50.8 mm in length. Tadpoles metamorphose in midsummer of their second year, generally the first week of July. Lithobates areolatus areolatus becomes sexually mature no earlier than 3 years of age. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999; Ken Crawford and Jeff Warwick, January 11, 2001; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1995)

Reproduction

Lithobates areolatus areolatus breeds during the months from February to April, and it is sometimes seen breeding in large numbers. After a heavy rainfall, R. areolata normally comes out of its underground home, and heads toward a lake or river to breed. The male attracts the female's attention by producing a breeding call, which sounds like a deep snore. The female lays anywhere from 3,000 - 7,000 eggs in a large mass. The female usually lays its eggs in shallow waters, near tall grasses. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999; Ken Crawford and Jeff Warwick, January 11, 2001; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1995)

  • Breeding season
    February to April
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 years

Behavior

Lithobates areolatus areolatus is a solitary and secretive species that is generally quiet. However, during the mating season the male is quite loud when attempting to get the attention of the female, and this frog is also known to mate in large numbers. The male's breeding call is a loud, deep snore, and it is known to sound as if he is saying "waaaaaater." Lithobates areolatus areolatus hides throughout most of the year, except during February and April (the mating season). It is hard to catch R. areolata because it lives most of its life underground and therefore avoids being caught by humans or predators. These frogs are quite fast on land, yet slow movers in the water. Its only defense mechanism in the water is to swim to the bottom of the lake or pond by keeping its front legs close to the body while using its hind legs to propel itself forward. (Dickerson, Mary C., 1908; Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999; Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, May 21, 1997; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1942; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1995)

Communication and Perception

Male R. areolata produce calls to attract females in the mating season. The male's breeding call is a loud, deep snore, and it is known to sound as if he is saying "waaaaaater."

Food Habits

Lithobates areolatus areolatus generally eats insects, as well as small crayfish, amphibians, and reptiles. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999; Johnson, Tom R., 1982)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Predation

Carnivorous fish will eat tadpoles of this species. It is hard to catch adult R. areolata because it lives most of its life underground and therefore avoids being caught by humans or predators. These frogs are quite fast on land, yet slow movers in the water. Its only defense mechanism in the water is to swim to the bottom of the lake or pond by keeping its front legs close to the body while using its hind legs to propel itself forward. (Dickerson, Mary C., 1908; Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999; Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, May 21, 1997; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1942; Wright, Anna A. and Wright, Albert H., 1995)

Ecosystem Roles

Rana areoleta is a generalist carnivore, and may impact the populations of many species of small vertebrates and invertebrates. It may also be a prey item for other species, especially before metamorphosis. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999; Johnson, Tom R., 1982)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Information is unknown.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Information is unknown.

Conservation Status

Although these frogs are not listed as endangered or threatened, they may be in decline in some areas due to the introductions of carnivorous fish. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999)

Contributors

Matthew Wund (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Kimberly Adams (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

choruses

to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

freshwater

mainly lives in water that is not salty.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

saltatorial

specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Dickerson, Mary C., 1908. The Frog Book. New York: Doubleday, Page, and Company.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources, January 21, 1999. "Rana areolata Crawfish Frog" (On-line). Accessed February 21, 2001 at http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/cbd/herpdist/species/ra_areolat.html.

Johnson, Tom R., 1982. "Missouri's Toads and Frogs" (On-line). Accessed 09/29/04 at http://www.conservation.state.mo.us/nathis/herpetol/frog/.

Ken Crawford, M., Jeff Warwick. January 11, 2001. "Frogs and Toads of Kentucky" (On-line). Accessed March 19, 2001 at http://bioweb.wku.edu/froglogger/default.html.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, May 21, 1997. "The Frogs and Toads of Tennessee" (On-line). Accessed March 13,2001 at http://www.state.tn.us/environment/nh/tnfrogs.htm.

Wright, Anna A., , Wright, Albert H.. 1942. Handbook of Frogs and Toads. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Company, Inc..

Wright, Anna A., , Wright, Albert H.. 1995. Handbook of Frogs and Toads Of The United States And Canada Third Edition. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates.