The Southern Leopard Frog – (Lithobates sphenocephalus) – is found throughout Florida mainly in freshwater habitats but it also inhabits areas within Hardwood and Pinewood forests. I photographed this one at the Calusa Nature Center in Ft. Myers where they have a good collection of amphibians and reptiles in aquariums and terrariums. I was awestruck by the spots and colors of this frog because it had brown spots all over its’ body and seemed different than the plain looking and single color of other frogs. The Southern Leopard Frog is green and brown in color and they have brown spots all over their body. They also have raised ridges on their sides, and like all true frogs they have large eardrums and webbed feet. I learned more about these frogs at the Univ. of Florida Dept. of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation website.
The Southern leopard frog is nocturnal which means they are active at night and their diet consists of insects, crayfish and other small aquatic invertebrates. Wildlife Biologists look at frogs as an “indicator species” of the health of an ecosystem. These frogs are very vulnerable to toxins that enter their ecosystems. Toxins such as pesticides, herbicides and other pollutants can kill off these amphibians rather quickly.
The Southern Leopard frog lays its eggs in clusters that are attached to some type of vegetation. They are unique in that their call sounds like a laugh or chuckle. It would be interesting to trace back the evolutionary history of this amphibian and try to determine how it developed from other forms of life and what species branched off from this frog.