CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Lowland Leopard Frog - Lithobates yavapaiensis

Platz and Frost, 1984

(= Rana yavapaiensis)
Click on a picture for a larger view




Historical Range in California: Red

Dot-locality range map


Listen to this frog:

sound




observation link





Formerly present, possibly extirpated in California.

All frogs shown here were found outside California.
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog
Adults, Pima County, Arizona. Courtesy of Cecil Schwalbe. Adult, Yavapai County, Arizona
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog
  Adults, Santa Cruz County, Arizona  
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog
Adult, Yavapai County, Arizona Underside of adult,
Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog
Adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona Adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, with larger, greener Chiricahua Leopard Frogs in the background. Sub-adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog
Adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona Adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
     
Juveniles
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog
Juvenile, Santa Cruz County, Arizona Juvenile, Santa Cruz County, Arizona Juvenile, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog
Juvenile, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Sub-adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona Juvenile, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
     
Breeding Adults, Eggs, and Tadpoles
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Tadpole
Calling Males, Pima County, Arizona.  Courtesy of Cecil Schwalbe. Very young tadpole,
Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Lowland Leopard Frog eggs Lowland Leopard Frog Eggs Lowland Leopard Frog Tadpole
Eggs laid by a newly-introduced captive in an outdoor
enclosure at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson
Tadpole, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Lowland Leopard Frog Tadpole Lowland Leopard Frog Tadpole Lowland Leopard Frog Tadpole
Tadpoles at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson
Lowland Leopard Frog Tadpole Lowland Leopard Frog Tadpole  
Tadpole,
Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Mature tadpole,
Santa Cruz County, Arizona
 
     
California Habitat
Lowland Leopard Frog Habitat Rio Grande Leopard Frog Habitat Rio Grande Leopard Frog Habitat
This is a distant view of San Felipe Creek where it flows through the desert east of the Salton Sea in Imperial County.

Most records and specimens of L. yavapiensis come from the area around the junction San Felipe and Carrizo Creeks and nearby at the wash below Harper's Well east of the Salton Sea. Most other localities in the Imperial Valley are now converted to agriculture and agricultural drains which are now utilized by L. berlandieri.
Former habitat, Colorado River,
Imperial County
Former habitat, Colorado River,
Imperial County
     
Habitat Outside of California
Lowland Leopard Frog Habitat Lowland Leopard Frog Habitat Lowland Leopard Frog Habitat
Habitat, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Habitat, Santa Cruz County, Arizona Habitat, Santa Cruz Co., Arizona
  Lowland Leopard Frog Habitat  
  Habitat, Santa Cruz Co., Arizona
 
     
Short Videos
Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog Lowland Leopard Frog
Juvenile leopard frogs hop
around a small desert creek.
Leopard frogs around a cattle pond in Santa Cruz County, Arizona.
A Lowland Leopard frog calls at night from a small pond in Pima County, Arizona.
   
Description
 
Size
Adults are 1.8 to 3.4 inches long from snout to vent (4.6 - 8.6 cm). (Stebbins, 2003)
Males grow up to 2.8 inches (7.2 cm).

Appearance
A medium-sized slender frog with a narrow head and long legs.
Color and Pattern
Tan, brown, light green to bright green above.
Large dark dorsal spots, usually with no light halos.
Typically there are no spots on the head in front of the eyes.
Yellowish below, including the groin and often on the underside of the legs.
Older frogs sometimes have dark throat markings.
Markings on the rear of the thighs have more dark than light coloring and this reticulation has distinct margins.
Prominent light-colored dorsolateral folds are interrupted on the lower back.
Faint light stripe on the upper lip.
Male/Female Differences
The base of a male's thumb is swollen and dark.

Comparison with Rio Grande Leopard Frog - Rana berlandieri
"Lowland Leopard Frog is less likely to have greenish coloration and conspicuous dark reticulated thigh pattern."
(Stebbins, 2003)

Life History and Behavior
Activity
Little is known of the behavior of L. yavapaiensis.
Appears to stay close to water, seeking shelter in streamside vegetation.
In cold areas they are inactive in the winter, but they can be active all year long in geothermal springs or at low elevations (such as the former California desert localities.)
Defense
To avoid predators, frogs remain still to avoid detection, as well as hopping into water or vegetation to evade capture.
Territoriality
Not known.
Longevity
At least as long as 3 years.
Voice (Listen)
Several short quiet chuckles, sounding like quick, short, kisses. Calls at night, sometimes during the day.
Diet and Feeding
Most likely eats a variety of invertebrates, along with small fish, frogs, and birds.
Tadpoles consume plant matter.
Breeding
Reproduction is aquatic.
Fertilization is external, with the male grasping the back of the female and releasing sperm as the female lays her eggs.

The reproductive cycle is similar to that of most North American Frogs and Toads. Mature adults come into breeding condition and move to ponds or ditches where the males call to advertise their fitness to competing males and to females. Males and females pair up in amplexus in the water where the female lays her eggs as the male fertilizes them externally. The adults leave the water and the eggs hatch into tadpoles which feed in the water and eventually grow four legs, lose their tails and emerge onto land where they disperse into the surrounding territory.

Breeding habitat is a variety of natural and man-made aquatic systems such as cattle tanks, canals. irrigation sloughs, rivers, permanent streams, pools in intermittant streams, springs, and beaver ponds.

Throughout most of its range, breeding occurs from January to April, possibly with two annual breeding episodes.
Eggs
Egg masses are laid near the water surface.
Eggs have been observed to hatch in 15 to 18 days.
Tadpoles and Young
Tadpoles metamorphose their first year in 3 - 4 months, or they may overwinter and transform in as long as 9 months.

Hybrids
Hybridizes with L. chiricahuensis in Arizona where their ranges overlap. (Stebbins, 2003)

Habitat
A habitat generalist - throughout most of its range, this frog is found in streams, river side channels, springs, ponds, stock ponds in desert scrub, grassland, woodland, and Pinyon Juniper.
In California: "A detailed understanding of the habitat requirements of L. yavapaiensis is lacking, but this species apparently inhabited slackwater aquatic habitats dominated by bulrushes, cattails, and riparian grasses near or under an overstory of Fremont's cottonwoods and willows (Storer 1925, Stebbins 1951, Glaser 1970, Jennings and Hayes 1994; see also Lowe 1985, Jones 1988a [as R. pipiens]). Lowland leopard frogs were also seen in canals, roadside ditches, and ponds in the Imperial Valley during the first quarter of this century (Storer 1925, Klauber 1934), but the context of its occurrence in those areas is not well understood because that era was a period of extensive habitat alteration. Lowland leopard frogs may have simply been transitory in those areas." (CA Dept. of Fish & Game HCPB)

Geographical Range
Historically in California, this frog ranged from San Felipe Creek in Imperial county east to the lower Colorado River Valley and up the Colorado River into Riverside and San Bernardino counties. (One source states that they were in the Coachella Valley [Platt and Frost, 1984])
Jennings and Hayes, in their 1994 California survey, concluded that they had been extirpated from the state. Succeding surveys have failed to find any. Isolated populations could remain in the Imperial Valley and the San Felipe Creek drainage, but it is likely that L. yavapaiensis is no longer found in California.

Outside of California, the historical distribution of this frog was discontinuous, from its easternmost range in extreme west New Mexico, north to Clark county, Nevada & Utah, south to Sonora, Mexico, and west to the Colorado River. However, the frogs along the Virgin and Colorado rivers in extreme northwest Arizona, Utah and Nevada are now thought to be Rana onca - the Relict Leopard Frog.

Jennings and Fuller determined in their 2004 report on the distribution of leopard frogs in California that "Lowland leopard frogs are apparently native to the lower Colorado river (Van Denburgh and Slevin 1913), and natural overflow lakes and tributary streams in the Imperial valley. This frog was known to be present at isolated locations such as Carrizo Wash, Harper's Well Wash, and Kane Springs west of the Salton Sea before 1940. ... ...observations indicate that lowland leopard frogs expanded their range in the Imperial Valley and along the Coilorado River with the development of lage-scale, irrigated agriculture in former desert areas during the early part of the 20th Century (Storer 1925, Klauber 1934)."

According to Storer (1925) "Upon a visit to Imperial Valley on March 27 and 28, 1923, the present writer found Rana pipiens [at that time R. yavapaiensis was recognized as R. pipiens.] in some numbers in overflow ponds between Brawley and El Centro and in roadside ditches west of the latter town between Seeley and Dixieland." (It is possible that by 1923 these were already Lithobates berlandieri.)


These are a few of the historical localities for this species in California:


Imperial County

1 mile east of Kane Springs, in spring 1957
San Felipe Creek 1956
San Felipe Creek, 300-400 yards above the junction with Carrizo Creek 1938
Carrizo Creek, just above the junction with San Felipe Creek 1938
Harpers Well Wash 1938
Wash below Harper Well 1939
Wash below Harpers Well, ca. 3 miles east Kane Springs 1938
Heber 1929
Bard; 3 miles north of 1930
Brawley
20 miles north Winterhaven 1950
Fort Yuma
1 mile north of the junction of Hwy 111 and 80 near El Centro 1958
5 miles north of Calipetria - US Fish & Wildlife G.Ref. Alamo River 1956
2.1 miles south of Westmoreland on US 90 1963
0.6 mile west southwest of the Imperial Diversion Dam 1949
1.5 miles west of Niland 1940
6 miles west of Imperial 1909
20 miles south of Palo Verde, 2 miles west of the Colorado River 1929


Riverside County

Blythe, Colorado River 1919
Colorado River, near Riverside 1927


Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
From sea level to 5,577 ft. elevation (1700 m.)

Notes on Taxonomy
Formally described in 1984. Previously grouped with the Rana pipiens complex.

In 2006, Frost et al divided North American frogs of the family Ranidae into two genera, Lithobates and Rana. Rana is still used in most existing references.

Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Rana yavapaiensis - Lowland Leopard Frog (Stebbins 1985, 2003, Stebbins & McGinnis 2012)
Rana pipiens
- Leopard Frog (Stebbins 1954, 1966)
Rana pipiens brachycephala (Wright and Wright 1949)
Rana pipiens - Leopard Frog (Storer 1925)
Rana pipiens (Schreber 1782)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Endangered or extirpated in California. No longer present in over 50 percent of its historical range elsewhere.
No frogs have been recorded in California since the last one was collected from an irrigation ditch east of Calexico in 1965. One survey of the lower Colorado River in 1978 (Vitt and Ohmart) concluded that there were no Lowland Leopard Frogs left in that area. Surveys in 1983 and 1987 (Clarkson and Rorabaugh 1989) found no frogs in California. Jennings and Hayes, in their 1994 California survey, concluded that they had been extirpated from the state.

The spread of introduced Rana berlandieri, predatory crayfish, fish, bullfrogs, habitat alteration by agriculture, grazing, development, and building of reservoirs have all been mentioned as possible contributors to the decline of L. yavapaiensis.
Taxonomy
Family Ranidae True Frogs Rafinesque, 1814
Genus Lithobates American Water Frogs Fitzinger, 1843
Species yavapaiensis Lowland Leopard Frog

Platz and Frost, 1984
Original Description
Platz and Frost, 1984 - Copeia, 940-948.

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Lithobates - Greek - Litho = a stone, bates = one that walks or haunts
yavapaiensis -
belonging to the Yavapai Native American group - probably referring to the type locality

Taken in part from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names

Rana yavapaiensis

Yavapai Leopard Frog
San Sebastian Leopard Frog
San Felipe Leopard Frog

Related or Similar California Frogs
Lithobates berlandieri
Lithobates pipiens
Lithobates catesbeianus
Rana draytonii
Rana aurora
Rana boylii
Rana cascadae
Rana pretiosa
Rana muscosa


More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

AmphibiaWeb

Jennings, Mark R., and Michael M. Fuller. 2004. Origin and distribution of leopard frogs, Rana pipiens complex, in California. California Fish and Game 90(3):119-139.

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Degenhardt, William G., Charles W. Painter, & Andrew H. Price. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Williamson, Michael A., Paul W. Hyder, & John S. Applegarth. Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, Frogs, Toads & Salamanders of New Mexico. Sunstone Press, 1994.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Elliott, Lang, Carl Gerhardt, and Carlos Davidson. Frogs and Toads of North America, a Comprehensive Guide to their Identification, Behavior, and Calls. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

Lannoo, Michael (Editor). Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, June 2005.

Storer, Tracy I. A Synopsis of the Amphibia of California. University of California Press Berkeley, California 1925.

Wright, Albert Hazen and Anna Wright. Handbook of Frogs and Toads of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1949.

Storer, Tracy I. A Synopsis of the Amphibia of California. University of Califonia Publications in Zoology Volume 27, The University of California Press, 1925.

Davidson, Carlos. Booklet to the CD Frog and Toad Calls of the Pacific Coast - Vanishing Voices. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 1995.

Conservation Status

The following status listings are copied from the 2017 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status, you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.


Special Animals LIst Notes:

1) Formerly Rana yavapaiensis; Frost, Grant, Faivovich, Bain, Haas, Haddad, De Sá, Channing, Wilkinson, Donnellan, Raxworthy, Campbell, Blotto, Moler, Drewes, Nussbaum, Lynch, Green & Wheeler (2006. The Amphibian Tree of Life. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 297: 1-370) placed this species in the genus Lithobates (Fitzinger, 1843). The standard common name remains lowland leopard frog.


Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking G4 Apparently Secure—Uncommon but not rare; some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.
NatureServe State Ranking SX All California sites are extirpated; this element is extinct in the wild in California.
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife SSC Species of Special Concern
Bureau of Land Management S Sensitive
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN LC Least Concern
 

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