Identification: This leopard frog grows to about 4.3 inches in length, and is green or brown with dorsolateral folds and numerous, relatively small dark spots. One of 6-7 leopard frog species in Arizona and New Mexico, the Chiricahua leopard frog is distinguished from other Southwestern leopard frogs by a combination of characters, including a distinctive salt and pepper pattern on the rear of the thigh of adults and some juveniles, dorsolateral folds that are interrupted and inset towards the rear; stocky body proportions; eyes that are relatively high and upturned on the head; and relatively rough skin on the back and sides.
Distribution and Habitats:
Occurs in the mountains of central and east-central Arizona into west-central New Mexico, and also in the mountains and high valleys of southeastern Arizona, the bootheel of southwestern New Mexico, and south through western Chihuahua and northeastern Sonora, Mexico (see map
). Historically it occurred in a variety of wetland habitats, but is now restricted primarily to stock tanks and other man-made waters, as well as headwater streams, ciénegas, and springs that lack introduced predators.
Behavior: Usually found on the edges of ponds or streams, the adults are more active by night. This is probably the most aquatic of the Southwestern leopard frogs, but during summer rains it can move overland and along normally dry drainages. Breeds primarily from April through October, but egg masses are unusual in June. Populations >5,900 ft breed June-August. Spherical egg masses of up to 1,485 eggs are laid in quiet pools, typically attached to vegetation. Tadpoles take 3-9 months to metamorphose, and some overwinter. Adult males give a distinctive advertisement call consisting of a relatively long snore of 1 to 2 seconds in duration.
Taxonomy: Recent molecular genetic work has shown some differences exist between the frogs on the Mogollon Rim of Arizona and southeastern Arizona. These Mogollon Rim populations, which extend into west-central New Mexico, are disjunct from populations in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and Mexico, and may represent a distinct species or subspecies. The distribution of the species in southern Chihuahua and Durango, Mexico is also unclear because of the presence of a similar species (Chihuahua leopard frog, Rana lemosespinali) and a lack of genetic and distributional work in that area. The Ramsey Canyon leopard frog (Rana subaquavocalis) from the eastern slope of the Huachuca Mountains, Cochise County, Arizona, has been found to be genetically identical to Chiricahua leopard frogs from southeastern Arizona, and will likely be subsumed into Rana chiricahuensis. A new taxonomic arrangement that is gaining support among herpetologists would change the genus name of all southwestern ranid frogs (in the family Ranidae) to Lithobates (rather than Rana).