Rana capito (LeConte, 1855)
Carolina Gopher Frog
Taxonomic Notes: This species was placed in the genus Lithobates by Frost et al. (2006). However, Yuan et al. (2016, Systematic Biology, doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syw055) showed that this action created problems of paraphyly in other genera. Yuan et al. (2016) recognized subgenera within Rana for the major traditional species groups, with Lithobates used as the subgenus for the Rana palmipes group. AmphibiaWeb recommends the optional use of these subgenera to refer to these major species groups, with names written as Rana (Aquarana) catesbeiana, for example.
© 2009 Stephen Bennett (1 of 17)
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
This species can be found in a wide range of habitats from dry, upland xeric oak scrub, and oak hammocks to pine flat wood forests. Preferred breeding habitats include seasonally flooded, grassy ponds and cypress heads that lack fish populations. In Florida, this species is closely associated with gopher tortoise burrows, particularly in xeric longleaf pin-wiregrass uplands that are within about 1.7km of suitable breeding ponds (Schmalzer et al., 1999).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
From a few studies scattered throughout its range, it appears that the timing of breeding and larval development varies from shorter breeding and larval periods farther north to multiple breeding episodes and longer larval periods farther south (Bailey, 1991; Semlitsch et al., 1995; Palis, 1998; Greenberg, 2001). In the Atlantic coastal plains of the Savannah River Site in South Carolina at the very edge of their range, Semlitsch et al. (1995), found that the breeding season in some years lasted only a few days and varied in timing between January and April. Palis (1998), who studied their breeding biology in western Florida, reported an eight-month breeding season (October through May) that encompassed three major breeding events (one each in October, February, and April). Reports of larval developmental periods range from 87-113 days in South Carolina (Semlitsch et al., 1995), 141-155 days in laboratory-reared tadpoles (Volpe, 1958) and 210 days in the Florida panhandle (Palis, 1998). Most studies report May through July as the peak emergence time for metamorphic juveniles. Semlitsch et al. (1995) rarely found metamorphs in pitfall traps and the few metamorphs that were seen were caught in drift fences between 27 May and 12 July. Greenberg (2001) found that, in Marion and Putnam Counties, Florida, most emigration of metamorphic juveniles occurred within a 14-86 day period between May and October. Rainfall did not appear to trigger emigration and had a negligible influence on daily emigration rates.
Greenberg (2001) followed the movement patterns of a population of R. c. aesopus in eight isolated ephemeral ponds in longleaf pine-wiregrass sandhills of the Ocala National Forest, Marion and Putnam Counties, Florida, using intermittent drift fences from February 1994 to January 1998. Four of the ponds were located within fire-suppressed sandhills having high densities of laurel oak, other hardwood species and sand pine and the other four ponds were located within regularly burned, savanna-like longleaf pine-wiregrass sandhills. During Greenberg's study, metamorph capture was significantly higher than adult capture. Greenberg observed more juveniles exiting the ponds than entering the ponds (72.8% as apposed to 27.2%). Recruitment was extremely variable between ponds and between years with no obvious correlation with pond hydroperiod. Adult recruitment into ponds did not correspond with upland habitat type; however, juvenile recruitment was consistently higher for ponds within the savanna-like uplands than for ponds within the fire suppressed hardwood-invaded uplands, although it was not obvious why recruitment at these sites was higher.
Trends and Threats
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Bailey, M. A. (1991). ''The Dusky Gopher Frog in Alabama.'' Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science, 62(1), 28-34.
Conant, R. and Collins, J.T. (1998). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts.
Franz, R. (1988). ''The Florida Gopher Frog and the Florida Pine Snake as burrow associates of the Gopher Tortoise in northern Florida.'' Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Gopher and Tortoise Council. D. R. Jackson and R. J. Bryant, eds., Florida State Museum, Gainesville, 16-20.
Godley, S. J. (1992). ''Threatened: Gopher Frog, Rana capito Le Conte.'' Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida. P.E. Moler, eds., University Press of Florida, Gainesville, 15-19.
Greenberg, C. H. (2001). ''Spatio-temporal dynamics of pond use and recruitment in Florida gopher frogs (Rana capito aesopus).'' Journal of Herpetology, 35(1), 74-85.
Kent, D. M., Langston, M. A., and Hanf, D. W. (1997). ''Observations of vertebrates associated with gopher tortoise burrows in Orange County, Florida.'' Florida Scientist, 60(3), 197-201.
Palis, J. G. (1998). ''Breeding biology of the Gopher Frog, Rana capito, in western Florida.'' Journal of Herpetology, 32(2), 217-223.
Schmalzer, P. A., Boyle, S. R., and Swain, H. M. (1999). ''Scrub ecosystems of Brevard County, Florida: a regional characterization.'' Florida Scientist, 62(1), 13-47.
Semlitsch, R. D., Gibbons, J. W., and Tuberville,T. D. (1995). ''Timing of reproduction and metamorphosis in the Carolina Gopher Frog (Rana capito capito) in South Carolina.'' Journal of Herpetology, 29(4), 612-614.
Stevenson, D. J., and Dyer, K. J. (2002). ''Rana capito capito (Carolina Gopher Frog). Refugia.'' Herpetological Review, 33(2), 128-129.
Volpe, E. P. (1957). ''The early development of Rana capito sevosa.'' Tulane Studies in Zoology, 5, 207-225.
Young, J. E. and Crother, B. I. (2001). ''Allozyme evidence for the separation of Rana areolata and Rana capito and for the resurrection of Rana sevosa.'' Copeia, 2001(2), 382-388.
Originally submitted by: Rebecca Doubledee (first posted 2003-06-11)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker (2007-12-19)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2007 Rana capito: Carolina Gopher Frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/6095> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 29, 2022.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 29 Sep 2022.
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