Southern Leopard Frog

Southern Leopard Frog

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Southern leopard frog

Southern leopard frog photo
Lithobates sphenocephalus
Ranidae (true frogs) in the order Anura (frogs)

A medium-sized frog with a variable number of rounded or oblong spots on the back. The two folds along the sides of the back are narrow and distinctly raised, yellow or tan, and extend continuously to the groin. The head appears long and the snout is pointed. Overall color is green, greenish brown, or light brown with some green on the back. Dark markings on the hind legs appear as broken bars or elongated spots. There is usually no dark spot on the snout. A white line is present along the upper lip. The center of the tympanum usually has a distinct white spot. Call is a series of abrupt, chucklelike “quacking” sounds, repeated at a rate of 12 pulses per second. Tadpoles are 1¾-2¼ inches in total length and olive-gray with faint gray markings on body and tail.

Length: 2–3 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Utilizes a wide variety of aquatic habitats, including creeks, rivers, sloughs, swamps, marshes, ponds, lakes and flooded ditches. When near an aquatic habitat, leopard frogs sit at the water’s edge but quickly enter the water with a powerful jump if alarmed. In summer, they may venture far from water into pastures, meadows or wooded areas, where they hunt for insects.
Southern leopard frogs eat a variety of insects and other invertebrates.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Throughout most of Missouri except for the northwestern corner of the state.
Common. Occurs sympatrically with the plains leopard frog in a number of Missouri communities, and these are known to hybridize.
Life cycle: 
In our state, normally active between late February and mid-October and breeds from mid-March to early May. Ponds, sloughs and flooded ditches are used as breeding sites. Several thousand eggs are normally laid in several clumps or masses, which are loosely attached to submerged sticks or stems. Eggs hatch within 2 weeks, and tadpoles metamorphose from mid-June to late July. Sometimes this species breeds during the autumn and the tadpoles overwinter in the breeding wetland.
Human connections: 
Missouri’s anglers sometimes use southern leopard frogs as live bait (daily limits apply, however—check current fishing regulations to make sure you’re using them legally). Many Missourians enjoy observing them as they plop into the water and sing their courting calls.
Ecosystem connections: 
Preys on a variety of insects and spiders and is in turn preyed upon by ribbon and garter snakes and other predators. The eggs and tadpoles become food for wetland predators.
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