Order Anura
Frogs and Toads

 


Family Ranidae - True Frogs


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Rana areolata
Rana areolata Baird and Girard - Crawfish Frog

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Description: The crawfish frog is a stocky ranid, with an adult head-body length varying from 5.7 to 7.5 cm. A dorsolateral fold is present along each side of body. Snout is conical and upper jaw is mottled with dark and light markings. Dorsal ground color varies from light gray to off-white. Dorsal markings are profuse, consisting of many round dark spots surrounded by light borders. These are interspersed with smaller dark markings of various shapes. Venter is usually white and immaculate.

Distribution and Habitat: Rana areolata is found in the Coastal Plain of western Tennessee. Although records are lacking for a large region in the Hardeman-McNairy county area, the species is known from just across the state line near Corinth, Mississippi (George Folkerts, pers. comm.). The crawfish frog is wary and difficult to approach. It breeds in flooded pastures and woodlands, farm ponds, and small reservoirs. It often occupies abandoned crayfish burrows.

Taxonomy: Two subspecies are recognized, but only one, R. a. circulosa Rice and Davis, is known from Tennessee (Conant and Collins, 1991; Collins, 1991b).


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Rana capito
Rana capito Le Conte - Gopher Frog

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Description: Rana capito resembles R. areolata but averages slightly larger. Adult head-body length ranges from 6.4 to 9.0 cm. A dorsolateral fold is present along each side of body. Dorsal ground color is variable, but is usually brown, dark brown, or nearly black. Dorsal markings normally consist of numerous round dark spots that lack light borders. Venter usually spotted from chin to midbody.

Distribution and Habitat: The species was discovered in Tennessee by Dr. Brian Miller, Middle Tennessee State University, in 1993 in Coffee County. Miller and student Tim Casey found a live individual on a gravel road during a night rain (Brian Miller, pers. comm.). The specimen (MTSU 72A) remains the only known individual reported from the state. Habitat use in Tennessee is unknown, but in adjacent states the species usually breeds in small ponds and flooded areas of fields and woodlands during and after heavy rains. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1994) listed R.. a. sevosa and R. a. capito, respectively, as Category 1 and Category 2 candidates for federal listing. However, the most recent list of federal candidate species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996) does not include either of these subspecies.

Taxonomy: Currently recognized as constituting a separate species (Collins, 1991b; Conant and Collins, 1991), the three subspecies of gopher frogs (R. c. capito, R. c. sevosa, and R. c. aesopus) were previously considered subspecies of the crawfish frog (R. areolata) (Altig and Lohoefener, 1983). With only one specimen from the state to work with, the subspecific status of the Tennessee population remains uncertain (Brian Miller, pers. comm.).


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Rana catesbeiana
Rana catesbeiana Shaw - Bullfrog

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Description: The bullfrog is a large ranid, with mature specimens averaging 9.0 to 15.2 cm in head-body length. Dorsolateral ridges are absent. Dorsal color is typically light to dark green with a highly variable pattern of faint dark markings. Mottling is not present on the upper lip. The tympanic fold is well developed.

Distribution and Habitat: The bullfrog is common throughout Tennessee and occurs in most permanent aquatic habitats including creeks, rivers, ponds, reservoirs, swamps, sloughs, and drainage ditches.

Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized (Conant and Collins, 1991).


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Rana clamitans
Rana clamitans Latreille - Green Frog

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Description:
Rana clamitans is a medium size frog, with adult head-body lengths ranging from 5.4 to 9.0 cm. Dorsolateral folds are present, but distinct only from head to mid-body. Dorsal ground color may be green, brown, or bronze. Distinct dark dorsal markings are usually absent, but indistinct spots, blotches, or worm-like markings may be present.

Distribution and Habitat:The species is a common inhabitant of springs, creeks, rivers, swamps, sloughs, reservoirs, and ponds; it occurs throughout Tennessee.

Taxonomy: According to Stewart (1983), R. c. melanota (Rafinesque) occurs in the eastern two-thirds of Tennessee and R. c. clamitans in the Gulf Coastal Plain of western Tennessee. There appears to be a broad zone of intergradation between these two subspecies, and in some areas subspecific variation is poorly defined (Stewart, 1983; Mount, 1975; Scott and Snyder, 1968; Ferguson, 1961).


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Rana palustris
Rana palustris Le Conte - Pickerel Frog

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Description: The pickerel frog is slightly smaller than R. clamitans. Head-body lengths of adults range from 4.4 to 7.5 cm. Dorsolateral ridges are well developed and extend from just behind the eye to groin. Dorsal ground color ranges from light gray to light brown, with distinct quadrangular, paired, dark markings. In a few individuals these markings are fused to form longitudinal bars. A dark spot is typically present on snout. Inner surfaces of hind legs and groin are tinged with yellow.

Distribution and Habitat: Although usually considered to occur statewide, R. palustris is uncommon in the Coastal Plain of West Tennessee. Conant and Collins (1991) show populations along the Mississippi River Valley as disjunct from those to the east along the Tennessee River in West Tennessee. Pickerel frogs are usually found in or near woodlands where they inhabit springs, creeks, ponds, reservoirs, and the twilight zone of caves.

Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized (Schaff and Smith, 1971).


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Rana sylvatica
Rana sylvatica Le Conte - Wood Frog

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Description:
The wood frog is a medium-sized ranid, with an adult head-body length of 3.5 to 7.0 cm. Dorsolateral folds are present and extend from just behind eyes to groin. Dorsal coloration varies from light tan to brown. Scattered dark markings may occur on dorsum. A light stripe is present on upper lip. Lateral brown to blackish markings extend from snout to behind tympanum and form a distinct facial mask.

Distribution and Habitat: A species usually found near upland woodland streams and flooded depressions, R. sylvatica is presently known from essentially all of eastern Tennessee and across north central Tennessee westward to Dickson County.

Taxonomy: No subspecific designations are recognized (Martof, 1970).


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Rana utricularia
Rana utricularia Harlan - Southern Leopard Frog

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Description: Rana utricularia is a medium-sized frog that as an adult ranges from 5.1 to 9.0 cm in head-body length. Dorsal ground color varies from light green to brown. Dorsal spotting is highly variable, but usually includes scattered, distinctly rounded, large dark spots. In some individuals, the dorsal spots may be elongate, indistinct, or absent. Prominent dorsolateral folds extend from just behind eyes to groin. Lateral surfaces of trunk usually have a few dark spots. A light line is present on upper lip. Venter is typically white, and a white spot usually occurs in center of tympanum.

Distribution and Habitat: Like Gastrophryne carolinensis, R. utricularia is common throughout most of Tennessee, but is apparently absent from the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rana utricularia may also be absent from a small area of upper northeastern Tennessee. Conant and Collins (1991) provide a distribution map that shows the species absent from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, and eastern Tennessee. However, in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Huheey and Stupka (1967) recorded the species from Cades Cove near 549 m elevation. Southern leopard frogs are common near farm ponds, reservoirs, creeks, rivers, sloughs, and swamps.

Taxonomy: The Rana pipiens species complex has a complicated taxonomic history. Following the most recent treatment (Pace, 1974), populations in Tennessee are designated R. u. utricularia. This species is often referred to as R. sphenocephala Cope or R. pipiens sphenocephala in the literature.


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