Frog of the Week

Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephalus)

Southern Leopard Frog
photo by Bob Warrick

Common Name: Southern Leopard Frog
Scientific Name: Rana sphenocephalus
Family: Ranidae – True Frog family
Location: United States – Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia
Size: 2.5 -3 inches (6.3 – 7.62 cm); max – 5 inches (12.7 cm)

The Southern Leopard Frog is named after its large spots on its body that resembles a leopard. They live near shallow, freshwater habitats such as ponds, lakes, and ditches in the eastern United States. In fact, they are one of the most common frog species in the southern United States. The Southern Leopard Frog ranges in color from green to brown, like the other Leopard Frogs. The females of the species are larger than the males.

Southern Leopard Frog
photo by Judy Gallagher 

In the northern part of their range, breeding takes place during the start of spring .While in the southern part, it can happen any month following rains. However, there are generally two large breeding events during the fall and winter.

At the start of the breeding season, the males will call from bodies of waters in hopes of attracting a mate. Once the mate arrives, the male grasps her from behind in the amplexus position. Then, she lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them. The female lays between 1,000 – 5,000 eggs and attaches them to aquatic vegetation. Neither parent provides any parental care for their offspring. The tadpoles hatch in between 4 days to 2 weeks. Then, they take around 3 months to complete their metamorphosis.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Lists categorizes the Southern Leopard Frog as Least Concern for Extinction. While they are losing some of their habitat due to urban development, they have been able to adapt to these new habitats.

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