Photo Credit: Mark Bailey
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lithobates sphenocephala
STATUS: Common statewide. Lowest Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: A medium sized frog that attains a length from two to five inches. Coloration varies from tan to brown and to green with dark spots (hence the name leopard). Southern leopard frogs are thin with a pointed head and marked with dark spots between two light colored dorsolateral ridges. Distinguishing characteristics include a light colored line along the upper jaw, a light colored spot in the center of the tympanum (ear). Males are smaller than females.
DISTRIBUTION: Rana sphenocephala is found throughout Alabama in suitable habitats. Outside of Alabama this frog is found north to New Jersey, west to Oklahoma and into Kansas, south to the eastern third of Texas across the Gulf Coast to Florida.
HABITAT: They are found in most freshwater habitats but limited in slightly brackish waters. Preferred breeding sites include woodland pools but they will utilize nearly any water source. Fairly aquatic, but ranges away from water when foraging. Often seen on roads.
FEEDING HABITS: Like most frogs, leopard frogs eat insects and other small invertebrates.
LIFE AND ECOLOGY: This frog is primarily nocturnal, during daylight it prefers to hide in vegetation along watered edges. Predators include fish, raccoons, skunks, and aquatic snakes. These frogs become sexually mature the first spring after hatching. Breeding is year round in Alabama when conditions permit. Most breeding occurs between December and March in woodland pools, swamps, ponds, and other wetlands. Females lay eggs masses in shallow water, these clusters can range from hundreds to thousands of eggs. Tadpoles hatch between 7 and 10 days and metamorphose to frogs between two and three months. This frog is commonly used in biology classes for dissection. It is also one of the frog species hunted for it hind legs.
Mirarchi, R. E., ed. 2004. Alabama Wildlife. Volume 1. A checklist of vertebrates and selected invertebrates: Aquatic mollusks, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa. 209pp.
Mount, R. H. 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Ala. Agric. Expt. Stat. Auburn University., Auburn, AL. 347pp.
AUTHOR: Richard Tharp, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries