Frog of the Week

Gopher Frog (Rana capito)

Gopher Frog
photo by Kevin Enge

Common Name: Gopher Frog
Scientific Name: Rana capito
Family: Ranidae – True Frog family
Location: USA – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee
Size: 2.5 – 3.75 inches (6.35 – 9.525 cm)

The Gopher Frog gets it name from the fact that they live in Gopher Tortoise’s (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows. Sadly, both species aren’t doing so hot. The Gopher Frog is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Meanwhile, the Gopher’ Tortoise is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

Gopher Tortoise – photo by Judy Gallagher

A lot of the habitat, especially longleaf pine habitat, that these buddies lived in was destroyed to make room for development. Another reason for their declines is fire suppression. The Gopher Tortoise enjoys wiregrass and herbaceous vegetative covers which gets decreased when invading hardwoods take over due to the fire suppression. It also changes the the quality of the temporary breeding pools that frogs use.

photo by Kevin Enge

Gopher Frog Reproduction

Throughout their range, the male Gopher Frogs will move to temporary ponds temporary and semi permanent ponds that lack large, predatory fish in winter or early spring (January to April). Then, the males will start to call to attract females to the pond. Once the females arrive, the male frog will grasp her from behind in the amplexus position. Next, the female will start to lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. The female lays between 4000 to 7000 eggs that they attach to aquatic vegetation. Once the eggs hatch, the tadpoles take between 3 to 7 months to complete their metamorphosis.

The frog has two subspecies – the Carolina Gopher Frog (Rana capito capito) and the Florida Gopher Frog (Rana capito aesopus). The Florida Gopher Frog is darker in color, ranging from grey to brown while the other subspecies is lighter in color, varying from white, brown, and yellow.

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