Northern leopard frog

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Northern leopard frog
Lithobates pipiens.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Ranidae
Genus: Lithobates (Rana)
Species: L. pipiens
Binomial name
Lithobates pipiens
(Schreber, 1782)

Rana pipiens
Schreber, 1782

The northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens, formerly known as Rana pipiens)[2][1] is a species of leopard frog from the true frog family, native to parts of Canada and United States. It is the state amphibian of Minnesota and Vermont.

Physical description[edit]

Young northern leopard frog

The northern leopard frog is a fairly large species of frog, reaching about 11 cm (4.3 in) in length. It varies from green to brown in dorsal colour, with large, dark, circular spots on its back, sides, and legs.[3] Each spot is normally bordered by a lighter ring. A pair of dorsolateral folds starting from the back of the eye run parallel to each other down the back. These dorsolateral folds are often lighter or occasionally pinkish in colour. There is also a pale stripe running from the nostril, under the eye and tympanum, terminating at the shoulder. The ventral surface is white or pale green. The iris is golden and toes are webbed. Tadpoles are dark brown or grey, with light blotches on the underside. The tail is pale tan.

Color variations[edit]

Two burnsi morphs, a green morph, and a brown morph of the northern leopard frog

The northern leopard frog has several different color variations. The most common being the green morph and the brown morph. There is another morph known as the burnsi morph. Individuals with the burnsi morph coloration lack spots on their back, but may or may not retain them on their legs. They can be bright green or brown and have yellow dorsal folds. [4] Albinism also appears in this species, but it is very rare.

Ecology and behavior[edit]

Northern Leopard Frog Ontario 1.JPG

Northern leopard frogs have a wide range of habitats. They are found in permanent ponds, swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams throughout forest, open, and urban areas.[5] They normally inhabit water bodies with abundant aquatic vegetation. They are well adapted to cold and can be found above 3,000 m (9,800 ft) asl. Males make a short snore-like call from water during spring and summer. The northern leopard frog breeds in the spring (March–June). Up to 6500 eggs are laid in water, and tadpoles complete development within the breeding pond. Tadpoles are light brown with black spots, and development takes 70–110 days, depending on conditions. Metamorph frogs are 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) long and resemble the adult.

This species was once quite common through parts of western Canada and the United States until declines started occurring during the 1970s. Although the definitive cause of this decline is unknown, habitat loss and fragmentation, environmental contaminants, introduced fish, drought, and disease have been proposed as mechanisms of decline and are likely preventing species recovery in many areas.[3] Many populations of northern leopard frogs have not yet recovered from these declines.

Northern leopard frogs are preyed upon by many different animals, such as snakes, raccoons, other frogs, and even humans. They do not produce distasteful skin secretions and rely on speed to evade predation.

They eat a wide variety of animals, including crickets, flies, worms, and smaller frogs. Using their large mouths, they can even swallow birds and garter snakes. This species is similar to the pickerel frog (Lithobates palustris) and the southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephala).



The northern leopard frog produces specific ribonucleases to its oocytes. Those enzymes are potential drugs for cancer. One such molecule, called ranpirnase (onconase), is in clinical trials as a treatment for pleural mesothelioma and lung tumours. Another, amphinase, was recently described as a potential treatment for brain tumors.[6]


The northern leopard frog has been a preferred species for making discoveries about basic properties of neurons since before the 1950s. The neuromuscular junction of the sciatic nerve fibers of the sartorius muscle of this frog has been the source of a lot of initial data about the nervous system.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

Muscle physiology and biomechanics[edit]

The northern leopard frog is a popular species for in vitro experiments in muscle physiology and biomechanics due to the ease of accessibility for investigators in its native range and the ability of the sartorius muscle to stay alive in vitro for several hours. Furthermore, the reliance of the frog on two major modes of locomotion (jumping and swimming) allows for understanding how muscle properties contribute to organismal performance in each of these modes.

As pets[edit]

Leopard frogs do well as a beginner pet. A standard 10 gallon tank is sufficient for a single leopard frog. It is very easy to separate the tank between land and water. A dense piece of wood can be placed partly in the water and land to provide easier transition from water and land (this also provides a basking spot). The substrate must be a combination of peat and moss, covered with orchid bark and sphagnum moss can be used on the terrestrial side. The depth should be at least 2-3 inches to allow burrowing. Gravel can be used on the aquatic side. It is extremely important to use smooth gravel only (to prevent skin abrasions and injuries). Leopard frogs live in an area with 68-75 Fahrenheit, although a temperature drop at night is a good idea (down to about 60 Fahrenheit or about 16 Celsius). Use a secure lid (preferably a mesh lid with lots of ventilation) is also a must - most frogs are adept at escaping, given the chance. Leopard frogs are fed a diet of crickets, mealworms, waxworms, silkworms. When feeding crickets an adult frog, the crickets must be dusted every week.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hammerson, G.; Solís, F.; Ibáñez, R.; Jaramillo, C.; Fuenmayor, Q. (2004). "Lithobates pipiens". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2015-01-16. 
  2. ^ Integrated Taxonomic Information System [Internet] 2012. Lithobates pipiens [updated 2012 Sept; cited 2012 Dec 26] Available from:
  3. ^ a b NLF Details, Retrieved 2015-03-28
  4. ^ "Northern Leopard Frog Rana pipens". HerpNet. Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  5. ^ NLF Info, Retrieved 2015-03-28
  6. ^ Frog molecule could provide drug treatment for brain tumors
  7. ^ Fatt, P; Katz, B (1952). "Spontaneous subthreshold activity at motor nerve endings". The Journal of physiology 117 (1): 109–28. PMC 1392564. PMID 14946732. 
  8. ^ Del Castillo, J; Katz, B (1954). "Quantal components of the end-plate potential". The Journal of physiology 124 (3): 560–73. PMC 1366292. PMID 13175199. 
  9. ^ Katz, B; Miledi, R (1965). "The Measurement of Synaptic Delay, and the Time Course of Acetylcholine Release at the Neuromuscular Junction". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B 161 (985): 483–95. doi:10.1098/rspb.1965.0016. PMID 14278409. 
  10. ^ Kuffler, SW; Yoshikami, D (1975). "The number of transmitter molecules in a quantum: An estimate from iontophoretic application of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular synapse". The Journal of physiology 251 (2): 465–82. PMC 1348438. PMID 171380. 
  11. ^ Hille, B (1967). "The selective inhibition of delayed potassium currents in nerve by tetraethylammonium ion". The Journal of General Physiology 50 (5): 1287–302. doi:10.1085/jgp.50.5.1287. PMC 2225709. PMID 6033586. 
  12. ^ Anderson, CR; Stevens, CF (1973). "Voltage clamp analysis of acetylcholine produced end-plate current fluctuations at frog neuromuscular junction". The Journal of physiology 235 (3): 655–91. PMC 1350786. PMID 4543940. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Hillis, David M.; Frost, John S.; Wright, David A. (1983). "Phylogeny and Biogeography of the Rana pipiens Complex: A Biochemical Evaluation". Systematic Zoology 32 (2): 132–43. doi:10.1093/sysbio/32.2.132. JSTOR 2413277. 
  • Hillis, D M (1988). "Systematics of the Rana Pipiens Complex: Puzzle and Paradigm". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 19: 39–63. doi:10.1146/ JSTOR 2097147. 
  • Ankley, G. T., Tietge, J. E., DeFoe, D. L., Jensen, K. M., Holcombe, G. W., Durhan, E. J., & Diamond, S. A. (1998). Effects of ultraviolet light and methoprene on survival and development of Rana pipiens. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 17(12), 2530-2542 (abstract)

External links[edit]