Rana palustris
Pickerel Frog
Subgenus: Pantherana
family: Ranidae
Taxonomic Notes: This species is placed in Lithobates by some authors, following Frost et al., 2006. This has been a controversial decision, because such well-known species as Rana catesbeiana, with an enormous literature, are made more obscure to many. What is not controversial is that Lithobates is the sister taxon of Rana, so the argument is simply one of Linnean ranks. AmphibiaWeb recommends treating Lithobates as a subgenus of Rana, with species names to be written as Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana, as an example. This option preserves the maximal amount of phylogenetic information and preserves a long-standing taxonomy.

© 1999 Joyce Gross (1 of 44)

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
See IUCN account.
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


It usually has a snout-vent length between 60 and 70 mm. It is smooth-skinned, with dark brown or black dorsal blotches which are often arranged in two regular rows and which usually are squarish or rectangular. It is gray or tan in color, with a bright yellow wash on the concealed surfaces of the hind legs and belly. The glandular, yellowish dorsolateral fold is roughly half the width of a dorsal blotch in large-spotted individuals and more than half in small-spotted individuals.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Canada, United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia

Canadian province distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
The range of R. palustris extends from the Gaspe Peninsula to the west end of Lake Superior, southward to the Gulf Coast of east Texas. A relict population occurs on the Coastal PLain of Alabama and Georgia. It is absent from the predominantly prairie regions of Illinois and adjacent states.
North of the coastal plain boundary, it occurs in habitats where the water is cool and clear. On the Coastal Plain, it occurs in floodplain swamp habitat, while in karst topography, it is often confined to the vicinity of the cave mouth.

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Females produce 2,000-3,000 eggs in several firm, globular sumerged egg masses. The egg is brown and yellow, averages 1.7 mm in diameter, and has two envelopes. The tadpole has an olive green colour, fine black and yellow spots, and a darker tail with yellow spots coalesced into larger spots.


Fenolio, D.B., Graening, G.O., Stout, J.F. (2005). ''Seasonal movement pattern of pickerel frogs (Rana palustris) in an Ozark cave and ecological implications supported by stable isotope evidence.'' The Southern Naturalist, 50(3), 385-389.

Schaaf, R. T., Jr., and Smith, P. W. (1963). ''Rana palustris (LeConte). Pickerel Frog.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 117.1-117.3.

Written by Franziska Sandmeier (franturtle AT, UC Berkeley
First submitted 2001-02-21
Edited by Updated by Shakil Huq (2014-11-03)

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2016. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: (Accessed: Jul 1, 2016).

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