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Northern Leopard Frog Fact File

Lithobates pipiens

Credit: By Brian Gratwicke – https://www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/5898747773/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15848126

Weight

29g

(1oz)

Length

5-9cm

(2-3.5in)

Lifespan

Wild 3-4 years

Captive 9 years

Diet

Carnivore

Insects

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The northern leopard frog is a species of amphibian found in parts of North and Central America.

These animals are carnivores and will feed on insects and smaller species of amphibian.

Females lay up to 6500 eggs on to underwater vegetation which are fertilized externally by the male. They hatch in to larvae known as tadpoles which will spend the first portion of their life in the water.

Across their range this species is increasingly threatened by habitat loss, competition, disease, the introduction of invasive species and collection for use in research.

Read on to learn more about these amazing amphibians.

Appearance

What does the Northern Leopard Frog look like?

Northern leopard frogs draw their name from the brown spots which are present on their back, sides and legs. Around each blotch is a pale border. A white line is present from the nose to the shoulder on either side of the mouth. Across most of their body they are green with the underside being white.

A ridge starts at the eye and runs down across the back. This is lighter in color.

An average adult northern leopard frog will measure 5-9cm (2-3.5in) long with a weight of 29g (1oz). Male tend to be smaller than the females. Their thumb pad is also thicker.

Diet

What does the Northern Leopard Frog eat?


Northern leopard frogs are carnivores which will feed on a range of invertebrates. Larger individuals are also able to consume smaller frogs.

As tadpoles they are mostly herbivorous and will feed on algae and small animal matter which they can filter out of the water.

Northern Leopard Frog

Credit: By BuBZ at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4306987

Range

Where can you find the Northern Leopard Frog?

North and Central America is the native home of the northern leopard frog. Here they can be found in the following countries – Canada, Panama, Mexico and the United States.

It is thought that the population in Panama may be its own as yet, undescribed species.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the Northern Leopard Frog live in?

These animals may make their home in forest, grassland and wetlands. They make use of water for breeding such as streams, marshes, bogs, ponds, canals and lakes. They may also use man-made waterbodies such as reservoirs.

They show a preference for slower, colder bodies of water.

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Reproduction

How does the Northern Leopard Frog produce its young?

Breeding takes place from March to May with some variation in the exact timing across their range. Males will call as they seek to attract a mate at the communal breeding ponds.

Males use their specialized thumbs to keep hold of the female during mating, known as amplexus. During this he fertilizes the black and white eggs as they leave her body. Each clutch can include anywhere from 300 to 6500 eggs.

Parents have no involvement in raising their young. The eggs are attached to underwater vegetation and left to develop alone.

Young hatch in to a larvae known as a tadpole which remains under the water.

Tadpoles are colored green or brown with yellow and black speckles across the body. They reach a maximum length of 8.4cm (3.3in) long.

As few as 5% of tadpoles which hatch will survive to maturity. Sexual maturity is reached between 1 and 3 years old.

Behavior

What does the Northern Leopard Frog do with its day?

The male northern leopard frog produces a loud, deep, rattling call which is broken up by grunts.

Outside of the breeding season the leopard frog will be solitary.

During the breeding season the northern leopard frog is primarily active during the night. Outside of this they undertake most of their foraging during the day.

These animals will undertake a hibernation during winter in much of their range. This is undertaken at the bottom of a waterbody.

Northern Leopard Frog

Credit: By Brian Gratwicke – https://www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/5898747773/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15848126

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the Northern Leopard Frog?

The northern leopard frog faces a large number of natural predators including fish, birds such as herons and hawks, reptiles such as snakes and turtles, larger species of amphibian, mammals such as the northern racoon, red fox or otters and invertebrates.

To avoid predators these animals will quickly leap in to the water or hop away. Their coloration provides some level of camouflage to keep them away from predators.

These frogs do not secrete distasteful substances like many other amphibians. Their appearance is similar to the pickerel frog which does have this adaptation and may cause predators to avoid them due to confusion.

If grabbed they may let out a loud scream.

The population of the northern leopard frog is believed to be in decline. In much of their range they are disappearing while in other areas they are still considered common.

They are facing declines due to habitat loss, competition, disease, infection and predation by introduced species. Pollution such as with the chemical atrazine is affecting them. It causes males to grow female gonads.

Northern leopard frogs have been used in a range of scientific studies.

Quick facts

These frogs are the state amphibian of the states of Minnesota and Vermont in the US.

Their scientific name was previously Rana pipiens.

Northern Leopard Frog

Credit: Public Domain

References

Dewey, T. 1999. "Lithobates pipiens" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 11, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lithobates_pipiens/

Geoffrey Hammerson, Frank Solís, Roberto Ibáñez, César Jaramillo, Querube Fuenmayor. 2004. Lithobates pipiensThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T58695A11814172. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2004.RLTS.T58695A11814172.en. Downloaded on 11 October 2021.

Ontario Nature. 2021. Northern Leopard Frog | Reptiles & Amphibians in Ontario | Ontario Nature. [online] Available at: <https://ontarionature.org/programs/community-science/reptile-amphibian-atlas/northern-leopard-frog/> [Accessed 11 October 2021].

Palumbo, J., 2021. Northern Leopard Frog (U.S. National Park Service). [online] Nps.gov. Available at: <https://www.nps.gov/articles/northern-leopard-frog.htm> [Accessed 11 October 2021].

Burke Museum. 2021. Northern Leopard Frog. [online] Available at: <https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/herpetology/amphibians-reptiles-washington/northern-leopard-frog> [Accessed 11 October 2021].

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