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Midwest Wilderness Connections Eco-brief: Leopard frogs of the Midwest

Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens
The Northern leopard frog is one of the most commonly encountered species of frog in the Midwest. As with all amphibians, they can absorb water directly through their skin. Unfortunately, this exposes them to contaminates as well. Declines of this species in portions of their Midwest range warrants further attention and study to determine the cause(s). In addition to the northern leopard frog, there are 3 other species of leopard frog in the Midwest that can be tricky to differentiate from one another.

 USGS GAP Known Range Map for the Northern Leopard Frog

USGS Gap Range Map for the Northern Leopard Frog
Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates spenocephala)
The southern leopard frog is found in the lower portions of the Midwest. Compared to the northern leopard frog, check for these southern leopard frog characteristics:
1) light spot in the middle of the tympanum (eardrum),
2) relatively smaller spots on the back that are not outlined with a lighter color,
3) No dark spot on top of the nose
4) dorsolateral folds (2 parallel, light colored stripes down the back) do not break near the groin.
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USGS GAP Known Range Map for the Sothern Leopard Frog
Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris)
Another species of leopard frog that occurs in the eastern and southern portions of the Midwest is the pickerel frog. This species has two parallel rows of square-ish spots down the back, which clearly distinguishes it from other leopard frog species. In the Midwest, pickerel frogs are typically found in shaded areas with clean, clear water, especially those that are groundwater fed.
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USGS GAP Known Range Map for the Pickerel Frog
Plains Leopard Frog (Lithobates blairi)
The plains leopard frog is found in the southern and western portions of the Midwest. Characteristics of this species include,
  1. An overall shade of brown, not green.
  2. The spots are brown or slightly green without a lighter outline.
  3. There is a white line on the top lip. 
  4. The tympanum (ear drum) has a light colored spot in the middle.
  5. Usually has a dark spot on the snout.
  6. White underside.

Photo will be added as soon as I can find a plains leopard frog!

USGS GAP Known Range Map for the Plains Leopard Frog

USGS GAP Known Range Map for the Plains Leopard Frog

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