SREL Reprint #2023





Timing of Reproduction and Metamorphosis in the Carolina Gopher Frog (Rana capito capito) in South Carolina


1Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA
2University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, P.O. Drawer E, Aiken, South Carolina 29802, USA.

Because of recent concerns about the status of amphibian populations (Pechmann and Wilbur, 1994), any information on life history traits related to reproduction and juvenile recruitment can become crucial in making conservation decisions. This is especially true for the gopher frog, Rana capito, whose life history and population status is unknown in most parts of its range (Altig and Lohoefener, 1983). State surveys of herpetofauna have listed this species as uncommon, rare, or endangered for at least two decades (e.g., Mount, 1975; Martof et al., 1980; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Johnson, 1987). At least two states, and perhaps others, have classified the species as threatened (e.g., in Florida by Moler, 1992; and in Alabama by Mount, 1986). During 1993 in South Carolina, verification of the presence of this species to the state's Heritage Trust Program was limited to a single observation (S. H. Bennett, pers. comm.). Its secretive nature, short breeding season, and small, patchy population distribution have all contributed to the lack of basic life history information about this anuran.

In an effort to increase our knowledge of this species, we have compiled data collected on activity patterns over the past 25 yr, including the timing of reproduction and metamorphosis of juveniles from various breeding sites on the Savannah River Site (SRS) in the Upper Atlantic Coastal Plain of South Carolina. A thorough description of the region, climate, and breeding sites mentioned in this report is given by Gibbons and Semlitsch (1991) or cited therein.

Rana capito adults have been collected at only seven (27%) of the ponds and Carolina bays effectively sampled on the SRS (41 sampling years). They have never been collected or heard at any large aquatic habitats such as the man-made reservoir system of PAR Pond or at very ephemeral sites such as shallow roadside ditches and small borrow pits where other anuran species are often found (e.g., Scaphiopus holbrooki, Bufo quercicus). At breeding sites where they have been found, fewer than 10 adults have been collected in any year, despite continuous monitoring with drift fences and pitfall traps at these sites for multiple years as well as periodic night visits for visual and auditory observations (Table 1). In addition, their frequency of breeding among years at four well-studied sites is very low (Ellenton Bay 0.30, Rainbow Bay 0.06, Karen's Pond 0.67, and Risher Pond 0.40). Finally, we have observed no apparent change in these low frequencies of breeding or small population sizes over the past 25 yr.

The breeding season in most years lasted only a few days, and occurred between January and April. In 1982 at Flamingo Bay, the breeding season was more protracted and adults were found entering the site during two distinct periods, mid-February and again in mid-March. This was also observed at Karen's Pond in 1970 where one adult was found entering the pond as late as 2 April. The body size of collected adults ranged from 59.0-91.0 mm snout-vent length (.R = 76.1 ± 10.32 mm SVL, N = 21; Table 1).

SREL Reprint #2023

Semlitsch, R.D., J.W. Gibbons, and T.D. Tuberville. 1995. Timing of reproduction and metamorphosis in the Carolina Gopher frog (Rana capito capito) in South Carolina. Journal of Herpetology 29:612-614.

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