The coastal plain leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala), also called the southern leopard frog, gets its common name for the dark brown spots that cover its light brown or green skin. This fairly common frog species grows to between 2 and 4 inches long, with the female being the larger of the sexes.
Coastal plains leopard frogs live throughout the southeastern United States and are among the most common frogs in Florida and Alabama. Their range includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Although they do not live in higher elevations, they are found as far west as central Texas and Oklahoma. As their name indicates, coastal plains leopard frogs inhabit the entire Atlantic seaboard, living as far north as Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania and southeastern New York.
Breeding and Larval Habitat
In the more northern portions of their geographic range, coastal plains leopard frogs mate in early spring. Those in the southeastern United States breed year-round, most often following significant rainfall. Males perform their mating calls at night while floating in the water or perched on floating debris. Females lay their eggs in still, shallow water, including puddles and ephemeral streams and ponds where rainwater collects. These eggs are either free-floating or partially attached to submerged vegetation. When the larvae hatch, they consume algae growing in the water.
Juvenile and Adult Habitat
Coastal plains leopard frogs live in and around all types of shallow water, both permanent and temporary. Adults inhabit areas surrounding ponds, lakes, streams and rivers, even ditches and ephemeral ponds. Because coastal plains leopard frogs have higher saline tolerance than many amphibians, they also live in brackish coastal marshes, wetlands and swamps. As tadpoles change into juvenile frogs, they migrate further away from their birth ponds into progressively drier upland areas. Juveniles and adults share similar habitats, although adults can tolerate somewhat drier habitats than juveniles.
Although the coastal plains leopard frog remains a common species, habitat destruction is its greatest threat. Species populations become displaced or isolated as a result of urbanization, the destruction of wetlands and water pollution. Fortunately for the coastal plains leopard frog’s survival, the species is hardy and adaptable, and thrives anywhere abundant water exists.
Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.