Leopard frog shows its spots

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The southern leopard frog is native to the southeast quarter of the United States. It is one of more than a dozen species of leopard frogs found in North America. The southern leopard frog gets it name from its leopardlike spots. It is arguably one of America's most beautifully colored animals.

A female leopard frog will lay several hundred eggs in a gelatinous mass at the water's edge during late winter or spring. The eggs will hatch in a week or so, depending upon the temperature of the water, and tadpoles will emerge. Over the next 90 days, the tadpoles will slowly transform into frogs.

Many animals such as fish, water turtles, snakes, shore birds, owls, raccoons, skunks and even coyotes prey upon tadpoles and juvenile frogs. Most southern leopard frogs do not survive to see their first birthday. Those that do will generally grow to become adults two to three inches in length from posterior to tip of nose.

There are no accurate records attesting to how old a southern leopard frog can live, but if size can be used as an indicator, the one I photographed here should be at least 3 years old. Its body length was about five inches. Just as I snapped the picture it leapt about seven feet into the underbrush at the edge of a pond.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo.

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