The Chiricahua leopard frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis) is a medium to large, stocky frog with adult lengths snout to vent from 5.0- 13.5 cm (2.0-5.4 in). The ground color on the dorsum is green to brown; the upper lip stripe is faint or absent in front of the eye; the head and face is usually green. The skin is rougher with more tubercles, and dorsal spots are generally smaller and more numerous than in other leopard frogs. Dorsolateral folds are broken toward the rear of the body, angling inward. The eyes are higher on the head and more upturned than other Arizona leopard frogs. The hind feet are webbed, and males have a swollen and darkened thumb base. In adults (and some juveniles), the rear surface of the thigh is speckled with “salt and pepper” markings, or small dots each densely covered with light-tipped tubercles, usually on a dark ground color. (Stebbins 1985; Brennan and Holycross 2006). The venter is a dull whitish or yellowish color, while gray mottling usually occurs on the throat and sometimes on the chest. The groin and lower abdomen are often yellow. Platz (1988) notes that the “posterior surfaces of thighs have numerous small papilla, each surrounded by cream colored skin...adults have mottled venter and males along southern Arizona border have vestigial oviducts.”
Found in mountain regions of central and southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, south in the Sierra Madre Occidental to Western Jalisco, Mexico from 1066-2408 m (3500-7900 ft), (Platz and Mecham 1979; Sredl et al. 1997).
They are highly aquatic habitat generalists. Adults become active in February (Jennings 1988, 1990), and eggs are laid in spring and sporadically through the summer and fall. Males usually call above water, but may also advertise below water (Degenhardt et al. 1996). Their call consists of a 1-3 second long, low-pitched, hollow snore (Brennan and Holycross 2006). Home ranges for males (dry season mean = 161.0 m2; wet season mean = 375.7 m2) tend to be larger than those for females (dry season mean = 57.1 m2; wet season mean = 92.2 m2). Post-metamorphic Chiricahua leopard frogs are generally inactive from November-February, however, a detailed study of wintertime activity or habitat use has not been done. Although microsites for these hibernacula have not been studied, they likely over-winter near breeding sites. (Sredl, in Lannoo 2005). Life span and age at first reproduction are unknown, although preliminarily, skeletochronology of Chiricahua leopard frogs indicate that they can live =/
This leopard frog attains an adult snout-vent length of 57-95 mm. Its body is fairly stocky, with rugose skin on the back and sides. Dorsolateral folds are present but interrupted posteriorly and displaced medially. The supralabial stripe is incomplete in adults. Vocal sacs are small and external. Grey mottling on the throat may extend onto the chest. The venter is variably melanistic with yellowish pigmentation in the groin region. The posterior of the thigh and the area surrounding the cloaca is covered with small tubercles.
Presently, Chiricahua leopard frogs inhabit two known ranges. One extends from central Arizona along the Mogollon Rim to western New Mexico.
The other range is from the montane section of southeastern Arizona adjacent to Sonora to the southwest corner of New Mexico and parts of Mexico, including the Sierra Madre, northern Durango, and Chihuahua.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )
Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) This species occurs from southeastern Arizona (drainages of the Madrean Archipelago and surrounding desert grasslands, south of the Gila River in Cochise, Santa Cruz, Pima, and Graham counties) and extreme southwestern New Mexico (Hidalgo County) in the United States, south along the eastern slope of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico, where the southern range limit is poorly defined due to taxonomic uncertainties. Also included in L. chiricahuensis are additional populations in the upper Gila River drainage in extreme eastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, whereas populations previously ascribed to L. chiricahuensis in central Arizona and westward along the Mogollon Rim to portion of southwestern New Mexico have been determined through DNA evidence to be L. fisheri, previously thought to be extinct and limited to southern Nevada (Hekkala et al. 2011). Elevational range extends from about 1,000 to 2,710 meters.
The frog formerly known as Rana subaquavocalis is known from areas within a 10-km radius in the Huachuca Mountains; current known range is limited to aquatic habitats in Tinker, Brown, Ramsey, and Miller canyons and several residential ponds in the area, Cochise County, Arizona (Platz 1993, Platz and Grudzien 1993, Platz et al. 1997, Arizona Game and Fish Department 2001, Platz and Grudzien 2003). It currently exists in several canyons on the east side of the Huachuca Mountains (Goldberg et al. 2004) and ranges in elevation from 4,925 to 6,001 ft. (1502 - 1830 m) (Sredl et al. 1997).
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Distribution and Habitat
Discontinuously distributed in Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora and Chihuahua. Populations occur in the montane areas of the Mogollon Rim and along the eastern base of the Sierra Madre Occidental. Rana chiricahuensis is found at elevations from 1000-2600 m, and occurs in a variety of permanent aquatic habitats which provide adequate depth for predator escape.
These frogs are similar in appearance to a small, extremely stocky bullfrogs with spots. They are olive to dark green in color, with charcoal spots. The groin features a yellowish pigmentation which may extend onto the posterior and abdomen. Lithobates chiricahuensis reaches a maximum size of 50-135 mm, with males generally smaller than females. Tadpoles are small and dark-colored.
Range length: 50 to 135 mm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Length: 14 cm
Sierra Madre Oriental Pine-oak Forests Habitat
This taxon is found in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests, which exhibit a very diverse community of endemic and specialized species of plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. These high mountains run north to south, beginning in the USA and ending in Mexico. The Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests are a highly disjunctive ecoregion, owing to the fact that they are present only at higher elevations, within a region with considerable expanses of lower elevation desert floor.
The climate is temperate humid on the northeastern slope, and temperate sub-humid on the western slope and highest portions of the mountain range. Pine-oak forest habitat covers most of the region, even though most of the primary forest has been destroyed or degraded. However, the wettest portions house a community of cloud forests that constitute the northernmost patches of this vegetation in Mexico. The forests grow on soils derived from volcanic rocks that have a high content of organic matter. The soils of lower elevations are derived from sedimentary rocks, and some of them are formed purely of limestone. In the northernmost portions of the ecoregion, the forests occur on irregular hummocks that constitute biological "islands" of temperate forest in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. To the south, from Nuevo León southward until Guanajuato and Queretaro, the ecoregion is more continuous along the mainstem of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
Dominant tree species include the pines: the endemic Nelson's Pine (Pinus nelsonii), Mexican Pinyon (P. cembroides), Smooth-bark Mexican Pine (P. pseudostrobus), and Arizona Pine (P. arizonica); and the oaks Quercus castanea and Q. affinis. In mesic environments, the most common species are P. cembroides, and Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana), but in more xeric environments on the west slopes of the mountains, the endemic P. pinceana is more abundant. Gregg's Pine (P. greggii) and Jelecote Pine (P. patula) are endemic.
Many mammalian species wander these rugged hills. Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Puma (Puma concolor), Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis), Collared Peccary (Tayassu tajacu), Coati (Nasua narica), Jaguar (Panthera onca) and Coyote (Canis latrans) are a few of the many diverse mammals that inhabit this ecoregion. Some threatened mammals found in the ecoregion are: Bolaños Woodrat (Neotoma palatina VU); Diminutive Woodrat (Nelsonia neotomodon NT), known chiefly from the western versant of the Sierra Madre; Chihuahuan Mouse (Peromyscus polius NT); and Mexican Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris nivalis EN).
A considerable number of reptilian taxa are found in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests, including three endemic snakes: Ridgenose Rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi); Fox´s Mountain Meadow Snake (Adelophis foxi); and the Longtail Rattlesnake (Crotalus stejnegeri VU), restricted to the central Sierra Madre. An endemic skink occurring in the ecoregion is the Fair-headed Skink (Plestiodon callicephalus). The Striped Plateau Lizard (Sceloporus virgatus) is endemic to the ecoregion. The Sonoran Mud Turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense VU) is found in the ecoregion and ranges from southwestern New Mexico south to northwestern Chihuahua.
The following anuran taxa occur in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests: Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Cane Toad (Rhinella marina); Elegant Narrow-mouthed Toad (Gastrophryne elegans); New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata); Sinaloa Toad (Incilius mazatlanensis); Pine Toad (Incilius occidentalis); Southwestern Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); Plateau Toad (Anaxyrus compactilis); Texas Toad (Anaxyrus speciosus); Sonoran Desert Toad (Incilius alvarius), found only at lower ecoregion elevations here; Rana-ladrona Silbadora (Eleutherodactylus teretistes); Sabinal Frog (Leptodactylus melanonotus); Mexican Leaf Frog (Pachymedusa dacnicolor); Montezuma Leopard Frog (Lithobates montezumae); Yavapai Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Northwest Mexico Leopard Frog (Lithobates magnaocularis); Bigfoot Leopard Frog (Lithobates megapoda), who generally breeds in permanent surface water bodies; Mexican Cascade Frog (Lithobates pustulosus); Tarahumara Frog (Lithobates tarahumarae VU); Western Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti); Lowland Burrowing Frog (Smilisca fodiens); Taylor's Barking Frog (Craugastor occidentalis); Blunt-toed Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus modestus VU), found only at the very lowest elevations of the ecoregion; Shiny Peeping Frog (Eleutherodactylus nitidus); California Chorus Frog (Pseudacris cadaverina); Rio Grande Frog (Lithobates berlandieri); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia); Mexican Treefrog (Smilisca baudinii); Dwarf Mexican Treefrog (Tlalocohyla smithii); Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor); Northern Sheep Frog (Hypopachus variolosus); Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis). There are three salamanders found in the ecoregion: the endemic Sacramento Mountains Salamander (Aneides hardii), found only in very high montane reaches above 2400 meters; Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum); and the Tarahumara Salamander (Ambystoma rosaceum).
Chihuahuan Desert Habitat
This taxon is found in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is one of the most biologically diverse arid regions on Earth. This ecoregion extends from within the United States south into Mexico. This desert is sheltered from the influence of other arid regions such as the Sonoran Desert by the large mountain ranges of the Sierra Madres. This isolation has allowed the evolution of many endemic species; most notable is the high number of endemic plants; in fact, there are a total of 653 vertebrate taxa recorded in the Chihuahuan Desert. Moreover, this ecoregion also sustains some of the last extant populations of Mexican Prairie Dog, wild American Bison and Pronghorn Antelope.
The dominant plant species throughout the Chihuahuan Desert is Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata). Depending on diverse factors such as type of soil, altitude, and degree of slope, L. tridentata can occur in association with other species. More generally, an association between L. tridentata, American Tarbush (Flourensia cernua) and Viscid Acacia (Acacia neovernicosa) dominates the northernmost portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. The meridional portion is abundant in Yucca and Opuntia, and the southernmost portion is inhabited by Mexican Fire-barrel Cactus (Ferocactus pilosus) and Mojave Mound Cactus (Echinocereus polyacanthus). Herbaceous elements such as Gypsum Grama (Chondrosum ramosa), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and Hairy Grama (Chondrosum hirsuta), among others, become dominant near the Sierra Madre Occidental. In western Coahuila State, Lecheguilla Agave (Agave lechuguilla), Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), Purple Prickly-pear (Opuntia macrocentra) and Rainbow Cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus) are the dominant vascular plants.
Because of its recent origin, few warm-blooded vertebrates are restricted to the Chihuahuan Desert scrub. However, the Chihuahuan Desert supports a large number of wide-ranging mammals, such as the Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana), Robust Cottontail (Sylvilagus robustus EN); Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Grey Fox (Unocyon cineroargentinus), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Collared Peccary or Javelina (Pecari tajacu), Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus auduboni), Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), Kangaroo Rats (Dipodomys sp.), pocket mice (Perognathus spp.), Woodrats (Neotoma spp.) and Deer Mice (Peromyscus spp). With only 24 individuals recorded in the state of Chihuahua Antilocapra americana is one of the most highly endangered taxa that inhabits this desert. The ecoregion also contains a small wild population of the highly endangered American Bison (Bison bison) and scattered populations of the highly endangered Mexican Prairie Dog (Cynomys mexicanus), as well as the Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus).
The Chihuahuan Desert herpetofauna typifies this ecoregion.Several lizard species are centered in the Chihuahuan Desert, and include the Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum); Texas Banded Gecko (Coleonyx brevis), often found under rocks in limestone foothills; Reticulate Gecko (C. reticulatus); Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texanus); several species of spiny lizards (Scelopoprus spp.); and the Western Marbled Whiptail (Cnemidophorus tigris marmoratus). Two other whiptails, the New Mexico Whiptail (C. neomexicanus) and the Common Checkered Whiptail (C. tesselatus) occur as all-female parthenogenic clone populations in select disturbed habitats.
Representative snakes include the Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Bogertophis subocularis), Texas Blackhead Snake (Tantilla atriceps), and Sr (Masticophis taeniatus) and Neotropical Whipsnake (M. flagellum lineatus). Endemic turtles include the Bolsón Tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus), Coahuilan Box Turtle (Terrapene coahuila) and several species of softshell turtles. Some reptiles and amphibians restricted to the Madrean sky island habitats include the Ridgenose Rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi), Twin-spotted Rattlesnake (C. pricei), Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis), Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii), and Canyon Spotted Whiptail (Cnemidophorus burti).
There are thirty anuran species occurring in the Chihuahuan Desert: Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chircahuaensis); Red Spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus); Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor); Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans); Rio Grande Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides); Cliff Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus marnockii); Spotted Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus guttilatus); Tarahumara Barking Frog (Craugastor tarahumaraensis); Mexican Treefrog (Smilisca baudinii); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia); Montezuma Leopard Frog (Lithobates montezumae); Brown's Leopard Frog (Lithobates brownorum); Yavapai Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Western Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti); Mexican Cascade Frog (Lithobates pustulosus); Lowland Burrowing Frog (Smilisca fodiens); New Mexico Spadefoot (Spea multiplicata); Plains Spadefoot (Spea bombifrons); Pine Toad (Incilius occidentalis); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Couch's Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus couchii); Plateau Toad (Anaxyrus compactilis); Texas Toad (Anaxyrus speciosus); Dwarf Toad (Incilius canaliferus); Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); Eastern Green Toad (Anaxyrus debilis); Gulf Coast Toad (Incilius valliceps); and Longfoot Chirping Toad (Eleutherodactylus longipes VU). The sole salamander occurring in the Chihuahuan Desert is the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).
Common bird species include the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), and the rare Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus). Geococcyx californianus), Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostra), Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata), Scott’s Oriole (Icterus parisorum), Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata), Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), Worthen’s Sparrow (Spizella wortheni), and Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). In addition, numerous raptors inhabit the Chihuahuan Desert and include the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) and the Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi).
Arizona Mountains Forests Habitat
This taxon is found in the Arizona Mountain Forests, which extend from the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona to south of the Mogollon Plateau into portions of southwestern Mexico and eastern Arizona, USA. The species richness in this ecoregion is moderate, with vertebrate taxa numbering 375 species. The topography consists chiefly of steep foothills and mountains, but includes some deeply dissected high plateaus. Soil types have not been well defined; however, most soils are entisols, with alfisols and inceptisols in upland areas. Stony terrain and rock outcrops occupy large areas on the mountains and foothills.
The Transition Zone in this region (1980 to 2440 m in elevation) comprises a strong Mexican fasciation, including Chihuahua Pine (Pinus leiophylla) and Apache Pine (P. engelmannii) and unique varieties of Ponderosa Pine (P. ponderosa var. arizonica). Such forests are open and park-like and contain many bird species from Mexico seldom seen in the U.S.. The Canadian Zone (above 2000 m) includes mostly Rocky Mountain species of mixed-conifer communities such as Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmanni), Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and Corkbark Fir (A. lasiocarpa var. arizonica). Dwarf Juniper (Juniperus communis) is an understory shrubby closely associated with spruce/fir forests. Exposed sites include Chihuahua White Pine (Pinus strobiformis), while disturbed north-facing sites consists primarily of Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) or Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides).
There are a variety of mammalian species found in this ecoregion, including the endemic Arizona Gray Squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis), an herbivore who feeds on a wide spectrum of berries, bark and other vegetable material. Non-endemic mammals occurring in the ecoregion include: the Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys spectabilis NT); Desert Pocket Gopher (Geomys arenarius NT). In addition, there is great potential for restoring Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus) and Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) populations in the area because of its remoteness and juxtaposition to other ecoregions where these species were formerly prevalent.
There are few amphibians found in the Arizona mountain forests. Anuran species occurring here are: Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Southwestern Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus); New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens); Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis VU); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia), a montane anuran found at the northern limit of its range in this ecoregion; Boreal Chorus Frog (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata); and Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor). The Jemez Mountains Salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus NT) is an ecoregion endemic, found only in the Jemez Mountains of Los Alamos and Sandoval counties, New Mexico. Another salamander occurring in the ecoregion is the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).
A number of reptilian taxa occur in the Arizona mountains forests, including: Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum NT), often associated with cacti or desert scrub type vegetation; Narrow-headed Garter Snake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus), a near-endemic found chiefly in the Mogollon Rim area; Sonoran Mud Turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense NT).
Permanent aquatic habitats with well-oxygenated water and aquatic vegetation are necessary for the survival of this species. It usually occurs at altitudes of 1,000-2,600 m. Lithobates chiricahuensis inhabits a wide variety of springs, streams, lakes, and ponds, as well as man-made habitats. The Nature Conservatory's Mimbres River Preserve is currently the home of one of the largest populations of this species.
Range elevation: 1000 to 2600 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; freshwater
Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Habitat includes montane and river valley cienegas, springs, pools, cattle tanks, lakes, reservoirs, streams, and rivers. The species requires permanent or semi-permanent pools for breeding (Jennings and Scott 1993; USFWS 2000, 2011).
The following information refers to the frog formerly known as Rana subaquavocalis:
Habitats are found in pine-oak, oak woodland, and semi-desert grassland areas of the Huachuca Mountains. Vegetation at sites is variable but includes horsetail (Equisetum spp.), spikerush (Eleocharis spp.), cattail (Typha spp.), watercress (Rorippa), monkey flower (Mimulus), and grasses. Emergent vegetation and root masses provide cover sites (M. Sredl unpublished data) (Arizona Game and Fish Department 2001). Most occupied habitats are modified or artificial aquatic systems (Sredl et al. 1997). Ponds, streams, plunge pools are occupied.
Adults and several tadpoles in upper Brown Canyon were found in a plunge pool (elev. 1675 m). Most of the frogs in Ramsey Canyon occupy a ground-level concrete tank (14 m X 14 m) approximately 1.3 m deep, fed by the natural stream adjacent to the tank; frogs also occur at various plunge pools along a 1000 m length of the stream, starting with plunge pools adjacent to the visitors' center and continuing above the tank population. Adults and larvae were observed at a small excavation in rock (a water pocket 2 m in diameter) 2 km below the entrance to Ramsey Canyon (Platz 1993). Occurs also in an earthen stock tank (Platz and Grudzien 1993). Males call while submerged, as may males of certain other RANA species.
Eggs are laid in spherical masses, attached to submerged vegetation, so that the egg mass is held near the surface of the water (Arizona Game and Fish Department 2001).
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Although detailed study of movements has not been done, marked frogs have moved several hundred
meters within Ramsey Canyon (M. Sredl, unpublished data) (Arizona Game and Fish Department 2001).
This species probably consumes a wide variety of insects and other invertebrates which are caught by the frog's long, quickly extendable tongue.
Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)
Comments: Adults mainly invertivorous. Larvae eat algae, organic debris, plant tissue, and minute organisms in water.
These frogs are both predators of many invertebrate species and prey of other frogs and fish.
Bullfrogs and fish are known predators of L. chiricahuensis.
- bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Comments: USFWS (2012) reported that there are 33 known breeding populations in Arizona and 20-23 in New Mexico (some of these are now identified as L. fisheri; Hekkala et al. 2011). These represent about 131-133 sites with extant populations (USFWS 2011). This species is represented by somewhat fewer than a few dozen occupied critical habitat units (USFWS 2012), each of which could be regarded as constituting a population or metapopulation.
Including northern montane populations, the species is known historically from 231 locations in Arizona, 182 sites in New Mexico, and about a dozen sites in Mexico (USFWS 2002), though some of these now are allocated to Lithobates fisheri (Hekkala et al. 2011).
The frog formerly known as Rana subaquavocalis is extant at four sites, with regular successful breeding occurring at two sites (Platz et al. 1997). Known number of breeding sites has been reduced to one (E. Wallace, pers. comm., cited by Platz and Grudzien 2003). Through intensive conservation actions, including translocations, this frog is currently found in five canyons on the east side of the Huachuca Mountains (Goldberg et al. 2004).
2500 - 100,000 individuals
Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely is at least a few thousand . Local abundance appears to fluctuate greatly. Populations in stock tanks generally include fewer than 100 individuals.
"Rana subaquavocalis:" As of the mid-1990s, the total number of adults at the two known breeding sites was not more than 120 (1994 End. Sp. Tech. Bull. 19(5):18). In 1995, population was augmented by the release of captive-reared juveniles. Through September 1995, there were 19 individuals in the concrete pond in Ramsey Canyon (H. Riley, pers. comm., cited by Platz and Grudzien 2003), but none were observed there in the summer of 1996 (Platz and Grudzien 2003). Since then, and despite reintroduction efforts, no breeding activity has been observed at the concrete pond in Ramsey Canyon (Platz and Grudzien 2003). In 1997, the total adult population probably was less than 100 (Platz et al. 1997). No population estimate for any site has exceeded 50 adults (Platz and Grudzien 2003).
Life History and Behavior
Males use a trilling, snore-like mating call to attract females. The call is distinct from other frog species in the same region.
Communication Channels: acoustic
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Comments: Inactive in cold temperatures.
Eggs form clumped, spherical masses which are usually suspended on the surface of water, or on vegetation growing in water. Tadpoles undergo metamorphosis 2-9 months after hatching. After metamorphosis, sexual maturity is reached in 2-3 years. This species can live up 14 years in the wild.
Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis
These frogs can live up to 14 years in the wild.
Status: wild: 14 (high) years.
These frogs breed throughout June-August at elevations above 1,800 m, or during spring to late summer below 1,800 m. Permanent water is required for their reproduction. Eggs form clumped, spherical masses which are usually suspended on the surface of water, or on vegetation growing in water.
Breeding season: June - September
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 3 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 to 3 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); oviparous
Eggs are laid mainly from February into October, with most masses found in the warmer months. Eggs hatch in 8-14 days, depending on water temperature. (USFWS 2007). Larval period lasts three to nine months, and tadpoles may overwinter. Males reach sexual maturity at 5.3-5.6 cm, a size they can attain in less than a year. Some individuals may live as long as 10 years. Source: USFWS (2007, 2011).
The following information refers to the frog formerly known as Rana subaquavocalis:
Males vocalize from at least mid -March through mid-July (Platz 1993). Egg masses have been recorded from mid-March through early October (AGFD, unpublished data). Mating seems to begin once water temperatures have reached at least 10 C (50 F), and oviposition may be correlated with temperatures rather than rainfall. Eggs hatch in about 14 days in the wild (Platz 1997). In captivity, eggs hatch in about 10 days when held at 23-25 C (73-77 F) (M. Demlong, unpublished data). Larvae metamorphose in the year they were oviposited or may overwinter as tadpoles (Platz and Grudzien 1993, Platz et al. 1997). Larvae metamorphose in as few as 100 days in captivity, but frequently take 160 to 200 days (M. Demlong, unpublished data). Platz (1997) suggested that sexual maturity is reached rather late in life, at approximately 6 years postmetamorphosis, but captive-reared frogs at the Phoenix Zoo and released in Miller Canyon produced egg masses one year after metamorphosis. Some individuals live at least 10 years after metamorphosis (Platz and Grudzien 1993, Platz et al. 1997). May have a lek breeding system, but further study is needed (Platz and Grudzien 1993).
This species is a candidate for a listing as an endangered species by the U.S. Federal Government. Chiricahua leopard frog populations have declined dramatically in recent years due to a variety of causes. One primary cause is habitat destruction due to the drainage of water from aquatic habitats, damming, river channeling, and grazing. The introduction of exotic frogs and predatory fish has also hurt this species. In addition, increasing levels of UV radiation due to the loss of the Earth's ozone layer have been shown to damage the eggs of this and other frog species.
US Federal List: threatened
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Range extends from Arizona and New Mexico into Mexico; range is smaller than previously known, with reallocation of some populations (central Arizona to portions of southwestern New Mexico) to L. fisheri; formerly declining in the U.S., due primarily to effects of habitat loss and degradation, introduced species, and disease; now stabilized and improving, though still facing threats from disease, non-native species, and drought; trend and status in Mexico are poorly known.
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable
Environmental Specificity: Moderate to broad.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: Overall in the United States, the status of the Chiricahua leopard frog is improving, whereas the status and trends for the species are unknown in Mexico (USFWS 2012). A recovery program is underway in the United States, and reestablishment of populations, creation of refugial populations, and habitat enhancement and creation have helped stabilize or improve the status of the species in some areas (USFWS 2012). USFWS (2011) concluded that the Chiricahua leopard frog is at least stable and probably improving in Arizona, declining in New Mexico, and of unknown status in Mexico
Populations of the frog formerly known as Rana subaquavocalis appear to be declining, and recruitment is low at all known localities except for Miller Canyon. Population at Ramsey Canyon declined greatly in the 1990s (Platz et al. 1997); no recent breeding there, and a breeding population on the Barchas Ranch was extirpated in the 1990s (Platz and Grudzien 2003). Platz (1997) examined survey data collected between 1990 and 1995 from Ramsey Canyon and noted a decline in the population from over 90 individuals in 1990 to 19 in 1995.
Some of the subaquavocalis translocation sites have been quite successful, as indicated by increasing numbers of adults encountered and evidence of successful reproduction. he animals released in Miller Canyon in 1999 produced at least 28 egg masses in 2000, and the population appears to be doing well (Arizona Game and Fish Department 2001). Other sites have not been successful.
Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 50-80%
Comments: Now absent from many historical localities and numerous mountain ranges, valleys, and drainages within former range (USFWS 2002); has undergone regional extirpation where formerly well distributed (USFWS 2002); including populations now allocated to L. fisheri, these frgs are absent from 75% of historical range (USFWS 2002), though subsequently a couple dozen populations have been reestablished, and populations exist also in recently established refugia (USFWS 2011). Where still present, populations often are few, small, and widely scattered (USFWS 2000). Possibly some disappearances from historical sites represent natural fluctuations rather than long-term declines caused by human impacts, but in most areas disappearances appear to reflect real, on-going declines (USFWS 2000, 2002). Status unknown in Sonora (A. Villarreal L., pers. comm., 1997).
Degree of Threat: High - medium
Comments: USFWS (2012) determined that the most significant threats to the Chiricahua leopard frog include the effects of the disease chytridiomycosis, which has been associated with major die-offs in some populations of Chiricahua leopard frogs, predation by nonnative species (e.g., centrarchids, bullfrogs, tiger salamanders, crayfish; USFWS 2000, 2002), and drought (though some sites are buffered from the effects of drought by wells or other anthropogenic water supplies; USFWS 2011). Additional factors affecting the species include degradation and loss of habitat as a result of water diversions and largescale groundwater pumping, livestock management practices (such that grazing is not in accordance with approved allotment management plans or otherwise considered adverse to maintaining natural habitat characteristics), altered fire regimes due to fire suppression, mining, contaminants, agricultural development, and other human activities; and inadequate regulatory mechanisms regarding introduction of nonnative bait species (USFWS 2012). It is unclear how ongoing climate change will affect this species (USFWS 2011).
Although progress has been made to secure some existing populations and establish new populations , the status of the species continues to be affected by threats such that the species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (USFWS 2012). Due primarily to ongoing conservation measures and the existence of relatively robust populations and metapopulations, USFWS (2012) determined that the species is not in immediate danger of extinction (i.e., on the brink of extinction). However, present threats (such as chytrid fungus and nonnative predators spreading and increasing in prevalence and range, and affecting more populations of the leopard frog) are likely to continue in the future (USFWS 2012),
The following refers to the frog formerly known as Rana subaquavocalis:
Elimination of beavers, which create favorable habitat, and diversion of water for irrigation, likely contributed to the decline of populations that may have existed in the San Pedro River (about 8 km east of Ramsey Canyon) (Platz and Grudzien 2003).
Threats include natural flooding (which could destroy or degrade breeding sites), and exotic competitors (e.g., bullfrog), predators, or pathogens. The few, small populations in a dynamic environment make the species particularly vulnerable to extinction. The Ramsey Canyon and Brown Canyon populations probably are isolated and may not function as part of a single metapopulation.
In early summer of 1996, a severe drought caused the Barchas Ranch duck pond to dry out, eliminating it as suitable breeding habitat (Platz and Grudzien 2003). In 2000, a dead frog in Ramsey Canyon was documented to have a chytrid fungal infection (M. Sredl, pers. comm., cited by Platz and Grudzien 2003). At two sites, Tinker Pond and Ramsey Canyon, chytrid fungus has been found in dead frogs (Arizona Game and Fish Department 2001). This fungus has been implicated in the declines of amphibians around the world (Berger et al. 1998) and may play a role in the decline of R. subaquavocalis.
Extirpation of two populations was associated with low levels of heterozygosity (Platz and Grudzien 2003).
Biological Research Needs: Determine phylogenetic relationships among northern populations (Rana sp. 1) and southern populations (Jennings 1995). Determine habitat requirements and life history.
Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Comments: Many occupied sites in the U.S. are in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona and the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. The species is on the U.S. Forest Service sensitive species list; this may afford little protection.
USFWS (2012) designated 39 units in the United States as critical habitat (these includes several units that are occupied by population that are now identified as Lithobates fisheri rather than L. chiricahuensis; Hekkala et al. 2011); 38 of the 39 unties were currently occupied. Designated critical habitat encompasses about 4,200 hectares (42 sq km); roughly 80 percent of this area contains L. chiricahuensis (as opposed to L. fisheri).
The frog formerly known as Rana subaquavocalis is protected in TNC's Ramsey Canyon Preserve. As of 1997, the Coronado National Forest was finalizing acquisition of the Brown Canyon site. A conservation agreement among landowners and state and federal agencies was being implemented in late 1997; it provides for captive breeding and reintroduction, acquisition of habitat, and habitat and population surveys (Federal Register, 19 September 1997).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
This species does not adversely affect humans in any significant way.
This species is not of great economic importance to humans.
Stewardship Overview: USFWS (2011) reported the following: "Since before the species was listed, state, Federal, and private partners have been engaged in conservation and recovery work for the Chiricahua leopard frog. The first population reestablishments occurred in 1995 in Ramsey Canyon in southeastern Arizona, and recently the 10,000th Chiricahua leopard frog produced by the Phoenix Zoo was released into recovery unit 5. Since population reestablishments have begun, the frog has been introduced at 30 sites, of which frogs are still persisting at 23. Refugia have been established at 15 sites; they are still present at 11 of those. Furthermore, many existing populations have been augmented with headstarted tadpoles or metamorphic frogs, and in some cases wild-to-wild translocations of egg masses. Non-native predator control in the Altar Valley and in the Peña Blanca regions of recovery unit 1 have allowed Chiricahua leopard frogs to recolonize, on their own, 13 or more sites. Elimination of bullfrogs and other non-native species have allowed persistence at a number of other sites. Habitat has been created or enhanced at numerous sites in all recovery units. These efforts have been most prevalent in Arizona, where the Arizona Game and Fish Department has had two or more employees dedicated to ranid frog conservation since before the species was listed, and numerous public and private partners exist."
Population and threats monitoring should be initiated in Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico (USFWS 2011).
The most critical recovery needs for the Chiricahua leopard include: 1) protect remaining populations and habitats; 2) establish new populations in areas with minimal or manageable threats; 3) develop a comprehensive monitoring plan; 4) implement monitoring, particularly of extant populations and habitat conditions where the species occurs; 5) begin researching techniques to ameliorate the threats of disease and non-native predators; 6) work with partners, stakeholders, and technical experts to build support for the recovery effort and to facilitate implementation of recovery actions; 7) complete the range-wide genetics study; and 8) find funding and staff time to support the recovery program (USFWS, Spotlight Species Action Plan).
Chiricahua leopard frog
The Chiricahua leopard frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis syn. Lithobates chiricahuensis) is a species of frog in the family Ranidae, the true frogs. It is native to Mexico and Arizona and New Mexico in the United States. Its natural habitats are temperate forests, rivers, intermittent rivers, swamps, freshwater lakes, intermittent freshwater lakes, freshwater marshes, intermittent freshwater marshes, freshwater springs, ponds, and open excavations. It is threatened by habitat loss and chytrid fungus to such an extent that it has been eliminated from 80% of its former habitat. The Phoenix Zoo, Arizona's Department of Game and Fish, and the USFWS are trying to mitigate threats through captive breeding and reintroduction efforts.
A 2011 genetic analysis study provided evidence that the northwestern Mogollon Rim population of the L. chiricahuensis are indistinguishable from specimens of the extinct Vegas Valley leopard frog (Lithobates fisheri).
- Santos-Barrera, G., et al. 2004. Lithobates chiricahuensis. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. Downloaded on 23 November 2013.
- Pauly, G. B., et al. (2009). Taxonomic freedom and the role of official lists of species names. Herpetologica 65(2), 115–28.
- Ellis, R. (2004). No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species. New York: Harper Perennial. p. 187. ISBN 0-06-055804-0.
- Phoenix Zoo marks restoration of 10,000th frog to the wild. National Geographic (September 1, 2010).
- Hekkala, E. R., et al. (2011). Resurrecting an extinct species: archival DNA, taxonomy, and conservation of the Vegas Valley leopard frog. Conservation Genetics 12(5), 1379-85.
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- Hillis, D. M., et al. (1983). Phylogeny and biogeography of the Rana pipiens complex: A biochemical evaluation. Systematic Zoology 32, 132–43.
- Hillis, D. M. (1988). Systematics of the Rana pipiens complex: Puzzle and paradigm. Annual Review of Systematics and Ecology 19, 39–63.
- Hillis, D. M. and T. P. Wilcox. (2005). Phylogeny of the New World true frogs (Rana). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34(2), 299–314.
- Hillis, D. M. (2007). Constraints in naming parts of the Tree of Life. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 42, 331–38.
- Platz, J. E. and J. S. Mecham. (1979). Rana chiricahuensis, a new species of leopard frog (Rana pipiens complex) from Arizona. Copeia 3, 383-90.
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Names and Taxonomy
Comments: This nonstandard taxon is retained for programs not following Hekkala et al. (2011). Based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA data, some ffrom centiry-old museum specimens, Hekkala et al. (2011) determined that populations of L. chiricahuensis from the Mogollon Rim in central and east-central Arizona and adjacent western New Mexico actually represent L. fisheri, previously regarded to be extinct and restricted to southern Nevada.
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