Thursday, June 11, 2009

Plains Leopard Frog

This is the Plains Leopard Frog (Rana Blairi), occasionally it is referred to as Blair's Leopard Frog after noted zoologist Dr. W. Frank Blair. They can be found near permanent water sources such as rivers, lakes, ponds and streams. The one pictured here was located near the Hundred and Two River in Savannah at Happy Holler Conservation Area. It was in some tall grasses not far from the water. These frogs will reach lengths of 2 to 4 1/2 inches. Typically brown or greenish-brown in color with spots along the back. A noticeable stripe runs down the length of the body. The eardrum will usually have a distinct light colored spot in the center. It is this spot that distinguishes it from the similar Northern Leopard Frog. In parts of their range where these two species of frogs overlap they will interbreed and create hybrids that are hard to identify to species. These frogs range throughout the Great Plains States, hence their name. Their populations are stable if not common throughout their range, with exception to Indiana and Colorado where they are listed as a species of conservation concern. The culprit for the decline in these two States is most likely the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Frogs are indicator species, meaning scientist can use frogs to determine the health of a given area. If frogs are disappearing then it is a pretty good "indication" that something is wrong. Frogs are super sensitive to changes in their environment.
Breeding males call out to females with a series of low "clucks" followed by grunting or chuckling sounds, each calls lasts about 2 seconds. In Missouri breeding typically takes place from April to June. In other parts of their range breeding times vary. After mating, females will deposit clusters of eggs, usually containing several 100 in each mass on vegetation in shallow water. Adult frogs generally begin appearing in July from these eggs laid in the spring. Leopard frogs are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat most anything that they can overpower, including insects, spiders, other small arthropods and occasionally small vertebrates. Leopard frogs have many predators to worry about, mostly snakes, especially garter snakes. They are also preyed upon by humans, fisherman use leopard frogs for bait. Now I am all for fishing, and I enjoy a good fish fry. I just can't bring myself to kill such a cute critter as a frog. Besides plastic frogs can be found at any bait and tackle shop. I enjoy listening to them calling in the spring, and I look forward to the first signs of new frogs in the early summer months. They for me are as much a sign of summer as Backyard cookouts and trips to the lake.

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