Lithobates chiricahuensisChiricahua Leopard Frog

Last updated:

Geographic Range

Presently, Chiricahua leopard frogs inhabit two known ranges. One extends from central Arizona along the Mogollon Rim to western New Mexico.

The other range is from the montane section of southeastern Arizona adjacent to Sonora to the southwest corner of New Mexico and parts of Mexico, including the Sierra Madre, northern Durango, and Chihuahua. (Platz and Mecham, 1979; Southwest Center Species Database, 2003)

Habitat

Permanent aquatic habitats with well-oxygenated water and aquatic vegetation are necessary for the survival of this species. It usually occurs at altitudes of 1,000-2,600 m. Lithobates chiricahuensis inhabits a wide variety of springs, streams, lakes, and ponds, as well as man-made habitats. The Nature Conservatory's Mimbres River Preserve is currently the home of one of the largest populations of this species. (Southwest Center Species Database, 2003; The Nature Conservatory, 2004)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range elevation
    1000 to 2600 m
    3280.84 to 8530.18 ft

Physical Description

These frogs are similar in appearance to a small, extremely stocky bullfrogs with spots. They are olive to dark green in color, with charcoal spots. The groin features a yellowish pigmentation which may extend onto the posterior and abdomen. Lithobates chiricahuensis reaches a maximum size of 50-135 mm, with males generally smaller than females. Tadpoles are small and dark-colored. (Platz and Mecham, 1979)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    50 to 135 mm
    1.97 to 5.31 in

Development

Eggs form clumped, spherical masses which are usually suspended on the surface of water, or on vegetation growing in water. Tadpoles undergo metamorphosis 2-9 months after hatching. After metamorphosis, sexual maturity is reached in 2-3 years. This species can live up 14 years in the wild. (Platz and Mecham, 1979; Southwest Center Species Database, 2003; The Nature Conservatory, 2004)

Reproduction

These frogs breed throughout June-August at elevations above 1,800 m, or during spring to late summer below 1,800 m. Permanent water is required for their reproduction. Eggs form clumped, spherical masses which are usually suspended on the surface of water, or on vegetation growing in water. (Platz and Mecham, 1979; Southwest Center Species Database, 2003; The Nature Conservatory, 2004)

  • Breeding season
    June - September
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 to 3 years

Lifespan/Longevity

These frogs can live up to 14 years in the wild.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    14 (high) years

Behavior

Being quite shy, these frogs will dive toward the deepest areas of their habitat when disturbed. This species is preyed upon by bullfrogs and predatory fish.

Chiricahua leopard frogs nest in tress and shrubs with dense foliage from 0-4 m off the ground. Males attract females using a distinctive mating call. This trilling, snore-like call has been studied intensively and can be used to distinguish this species from similar frogs inhabiting the same region. (Platz and Mecham, 1979; Southwest Center Species Database, 2003; The Nature Conservatory, 2004)

Communication and Perception

Males use a trilling, snore-like mating call to attract females. The call is distinct from other frog species in the same region. (Platz and Mecham, 1979; Southwest Center Species Database, 2003; The Nature Conservatory, 2004)

Food Habits

This species probably consumes a wide variety of insects and other invertebrates which are caught by the frog's long, quickly extendable tongue. (The Nature Conservatory, 2004)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Predation

Bullfrogs and fish are known predators of L. chiricahuensis. (Platz and Mecham, 1979; Southwest Center Species Database, 2003; The Nature Conservatory, 2004)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

These frogs are both predators of many invertebrate species and prey of other frogs and fish. (Platz and Mecham, 1979; Southwest Center Species Database, 2003; The Nature Conservatory, 2004)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This species is not of great economic importance to humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This species does not adversely affect humans in any significant way.

Conservation Status

This species is a candidate for a listing as an endangered species by the U.S. Federal Government. Chiricahua leopard frog populations have declined dramatically in recent years due to a variety of causes. One primary cause is habitat destruction due to the drainage of water from aquatic habitats, damming, river channeling, and grazing. The introduction of exotic frogs and predatory fish has also hurt this species. In addition, increasing levels of UV radiation due to the loss of the Earth's ozone layer have been shown to damage the eggs of this and other frog species. (The Nature Conservatory, 2004; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2001)

Contributors

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

Al Hilton (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

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

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.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

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.

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.

threatened

The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Platz, J., J. Mecham. 1979. Rana chiricahuensis, a new species of leopard frog (Rana pipens complex) from Arizona. Copeia, 3: 383-390.

Southwest Center Species Database, 2003. "Chiricahua Leopard Frog" (On-line). Accessed 10/05/04 at http://www.sw-center.org/swcbd/species/lfrog/index.HTML.

The Nature Conservatory, 2004. "An Elemental Fact: The Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chiricahuensis)" (On-line). Accessed 10/05/04 at http://nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/newmexico/science/art1163.html.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2001. "Division of Endangered Species, Species Informaion" (On-line). Accessed March 7, 2001 at http://endangered.fws.gov/wildlife.html.