Frog of the Week

Tarahumara Frog (Rana tarahumarae)

Tarahumara Frog
photo by Jim Rorabaugh of USFWS

Common Name: Tarahumara Frog
Scientific Name: Rana tarahumarae
Family: Ranidae – True Frog family
Locations: United States and Mexico
US Locations: Arizona
Size: 2.5 – 4 inches (64 – 102 mm)

The Tarahumara Frog is found in the montane canyons of southern Arizona and down into Mexico. Their main habitat is rocky streams and plunge pools. They breed in these permanent bodies of water from April to May. The male frog will call out to the females though they lack vocal sacs like other frogs have. The female will arrive and the male will grasp her from behind in the amplexus position. Then, the female will lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. Females can lay up to 2200 eggs at a time. Neither parent will provide any parental care for their offspring. The tadpoles can take over 2 years to complete their metamorphosis.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Lists categorizes the Tarahumara Frog as Vulnerable to Extinction. The frog is extinct in Arizona and is steadily disappearing from Mexico. Chytrid Fungus, a deadly disease, is believed to have caused large die offs of the frogs. Other reasons for the declines in their numbers include invasive species, pollution, and habitat destruction. Invasive species, such as the Blue Gill and American Bullfrog, feast upon the frog and their tadpoles. Much of the range of the Tarahumara Frog in Arizona has been taken over by Bullfrogs.

There are currently projects working to reintroduce the frogs into Arizona. The first reintroduction was done in 2004. All of the frogs sadly died out over the next 10 years due to Chytrid Fungus and flooding. In 2012 and 2013, frogs and tadpoles were once again reintroduced but a die off happened due to chytrid fungus again. There’s still hope enough survived to continue the population. More plans for reintroduction are being considered.

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