Timing of Reproduction and Metamorphosis in the Carolina
Gopher Frog (Rana capito capito) in South Carolina
RAYMOND D. SEMLITSCH,1 J. WHITFIELD GIBBONS,2 AND TRACEY D. TUBERVILLE,2
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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