Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Anura Ranidae

Scientific Name: Lithobates capito
Species Authority: (LeConte, 1855)
Common Name(s):
English Gopher Frog
Rana capito LeConte, 1855
Taxonomic Source(s): Frost, D.R. 2014. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 6 (27 January 2014). New York, USA. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2014).
Taxonomic Notes: This species was removed from the synonymy of Lithobates areolatus by Case (1978) and Young and Crother (2001).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Geoffrey Hammerson, John Jensen
Reviewer(s): Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)
Listed as Near Threatened because this species is probably in significant decline (but probably at a rate of less than 30% over ten years) because of widespread habitat loss through much of its range, thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is found in the USA from the Coastal Plain from the southern half of North Carolina (Beaufort County) to southern Florida (Collier County on the west coast, Broward County on the east coast), west to the Tombigbee River of Alabama. There are isolated populations in central Alabama (with a historical record from Shelby County) and central Tennessee (Atlig and Lohoefener 1983; Bailey 1991; Conant and Collins 1991; Godley 1992; Redmond and Scott 1996; Miller and Campbell 1996). Most of its range is contained within the range of the gopher tortoise Gopherus polyphemus (Conant and Collins 1991).
Countries occurrence:
United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: In Alabama, this frog occurs at six breeding sites (M.A. Bailey pers. comm.). In Florida, it is extant at 79 sites east of the Apalachicola River (R. Franz unpubl.) and it breeds in at least 25 sites west of the Apalachicola River (J.G. Palis pers. comm.). It is known from two specimens in Tennessee (Redmond and Scott 1996; M.A. Bailey pers. comm.), and it is known to occur at seven sites at least in Georgia, including Fort Benning (where 60-110 breeding adults were recorded in a two acre pond; Andrews pers. comm.), Fort Stewart (18 breeding sites recorded; D.J. Stevenson pers. comm.), McIntosh County, Baker County (at least five sites), Charlton County (C.W. Seyle unpubl.), Taylor County (three breeding sites), and Marion County. It is known from two sites (Savannah River Ecology Lab and Santee Coastal Reserve) in South Carolina. In North Carolina, it breeds at 11 sites (A.L. Braswell unpubl.). Though few data are available concerning changes in the species’ population status, much information exists on the reduction of its habitat and breeding sites. The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) community, the ecosystem primarily inhabited by this species, has been reduced to less than 5% of its historical range (Frost 1993; Outcalt and Sheffield 1996). Bailey (1994) reported that eight of 14 known breeding sites in Alabama are considered historic and of the six extant ponds, only three supported substantial populations. However, since that study, one historic site has been reconfirmed as extant, two additional breeding ponds have been discovered, and one previously known breeding site has been extirpated due to the introduction of predatory fish (M.A. Bailey pers. comm.; J.B. Jensen pers. comm.). Although a few new North Carolina sites have been documented in recent years (Beane and Hoffman 1995, 1997), Braswell (1993) found only 11 of 32 previously known breeding sites to be active in North Carolina. Twelve sites are known from South Carolina, though only four remain extant (S.H. Bennett pers. comm.). Of 23 historic breeding sites in Georgia investigated by Seyle (1994) 12 were judged suitable, eight were considered degraded but marginally suitable, and three were judged unsuitable. Only one site was found to contain the frogs during two extensive surveys of Georgia's coastal plain in late winter and early spring of 1995. However, heavy rains during the autumn of the previous year might have contributed to early breeding, and therefore low detectability during the survey period (Moulis 1995a,b). Extensive surveys are lacking for Florida. The total population size of this species is not known but it is apparently declining in many areas.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Its primary habitat is native xeric upland habitats, particularly longleaf pine-turkey oak sand hill associations; also xeric to mesic longleaf pine flat woods, sand pine scrub, xeric oak hammocks, and ruderal successional stages of these habitats. It is absent from most coastal islands and dunes (Godley 1992). Burrows of the gopher tortoise or rodents are used for shelter (Gentry and Smith 1968; Lee 1968; Franz 1986), and it also hides under logs and under or in stumps (Wright and Wright 1949). Breeding occurs in ephemeral to semi-permanent graminoid-dominated wetlands that lack large predatory fish (Bailey 1991; Moler and Franz 1987; J.G. Palis unpubl.). This species does not adapt well to habitat degradation or the introduction of predators to its breeding habitat.
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Threats to this species are many and include loss of longleaf pine habitat through maximum-yield timber management (for example, through establishment of pine monocultures) and decreased frequency of fire; introduction of predatory fish into breeding ponds; road construction near breeding sites; and declining populations of gopher tortoises whose burrows are used extensively by gopher frogs (Bailey 1991; Godley 1992). Mechanical site preparation techniques (such as roller chopping) destroy burrow openings, which may trap inhabitants. Routine pine straw harvest and associated removal of herbaceous vegetation also degrades the habitat quality (A.L. Braswell pers. comm.). Introduction of predatory game fishes (Lepomis spp. and Micropterus spp.) is detrimental as these species feed upon gopher frog tadpoles and possibly eggs. In some instances, introduction of mosquito fish (Gambusia spp.) can also be detrimental to gopher frogs and other larval amphibians (A.L. Braswell pers. comm.). Breeding sites are often degraded by off-road recreational vehicle (ORV) use or by sand roads that pass through or adjacent to the ponds as vehicular traffic disrupts pond floor micro-topography and eliminates herbaceous vegetation (J.G. Palis pers. comm.). More specifically, large tires of ORVs may break the organic hardpan that lies below the pond floor. This hardpan prevents water from draining into the sand below the wetland (LaClaire and Franz 1991), so breaking the hardpan could result in a shorter hydroperiod and thus make some wetlands unsuitable for gopher frog reproduction. Loss of herbaceous vegetation from ORV use could also discourage gopher frog reproduction since egg masses are attached to stems of herbaceous vegetation (Bailey 1990; J.G. Palis pers. comm.). Erosion of unpaved roads lying adjacent to breeding sites may result in sedimentation into the ponds. Introduction of sediment is exacerbated by the placement of wing ditches that divert water from roads into ponds. Heavy grazing by cattle in summer in dried pond basins might reduce or eliminate frog oviposition sites and/or alter pond nutrient cycling.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: A number of protected areas occur on various public lands throughout the species' range. The most abundant populations are on federal lands, including Conecuh National Forest (Alabama), Eglin Air Force Base (Florida), and Fort Benning (Georgia). These areas receive at least some protection relevant to the needs of this frog. Elsewhere, existing regulatory mechanisms probably are insufficient for adequate protection of breeding and non-breeding habitat. It is listed as a species of special concern in Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and is protected in Alabama. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is currently evaluating the range-wide status of this frog to determine if it warrants federal recommendation as a threatened species (L.V. LaClaire pers. comm.).

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability: Suitable  
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
suitability: Suitable  
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.6. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha)
suitability: Suitable  
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.8. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
suitability: Suitable  
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.3. Tourism & recreation areas
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.2. Wood & pulp plantations -> 2.2.3. Scale Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.4. Scale Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.1. Roads & railroads
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.2. Gathering terrestrial plants -> 5.2.4. Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.5. Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species -> 8.1.2. Named species
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species -> 8.1.2. Named species
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species -> 8.1.2. Named species
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.2. Soil erosion, sedimentation
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Altig, R. and Lohoefener, R. 1983. Rana areolata. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles: 1-4.

Auffenberg, W. and Franz, R. 1982. The status and distribution of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). In: Bury, R.B. (ed.), North American tortoises: conservation and ecology, pp. 95-126. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bailey, M.A. 1990. Movement of the dusky gopher frog (Rana areolata sevosa) at a temporary pond in the lower coastal plain of Alabama. In: Dodd Jr, C.K., Ashton Jr, R.E., Franz, R. and Ester, E. (eds), Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Meeting of the Gopher Tortoise Council, pp. 27-43. Florida Museum of Natual History, Gainesville, Florida.

Bailey, M.A. 1991. The dusky gopher frog in Alabama. Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science: 28-34.

Bartlett, R.D. and Bartlett, P.P. 1999. A Field Guide to Florida Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, TX, USA.

Beane, J.C. and Hoffman, E.L. 1995. Geographic distribution: Rana capito capito. Herpetological Review: 153.

Blackburn, L., Nanjappa, P. and Lannoo, M.J. 2001. An Atlas of the Distribution of U.S. Amphibians. Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA.

Blihovde, W.B. 2000. Natural history notes: Rana capito aesopus (Florida gopher frog). Herpetological Review: 101.

Braswell, A.L. 1993. Status report on Rana capito capito Le Conte, the Carolina gopher frog in North Carolina. Final report to North Carolina Wildlife Commission.

Case, S.M. 1978. Biochemical systematics of members of the genus Rana native to western North America. Systematic Zoology: 299-311.

Collins, J.T. 1990. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles, 3rd edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles: Herpetological Circular: 1-41.

Collins, J.T. 1997. Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians and reptiles. Fourth edition. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular.

Conant, R. and Collins, J.T. 1991. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts.

Cronin, J.T. and Travis, J. 1986. Size-limited predation on larval Rana areolata (Anura: Ranidae) by two species of backswimmer (Insecta: Hemiptera: Notonectidae). Herpetologica: 171-174.

Dundee, H.A. and Rossman, D.A. 1989. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA, USA.

Einem, G.E. and Ober, L.D. 1956. The seasonal behavior of certain Florida Salientia. Herpetologica: 205-212.

Eisenberg, J.F. 1983. The gopher tortoise as a keystone species. In: Bryant, R.J. and Franz, R. (eds), The gopher tortoise: a keystone species, Proceedings of the 4th Annual Meeting, Gopher Tortoise Council., Valdosta, Georgia.

Franz, R. 1986. The Florida gopher frog and Florida pine snake as burrow associates of the gopher tortoise in northern Florida. In: Jackson, D.R. and Bryant, R.J. (eds), The Gopher Tortoise and its Community, pp. 16-20. Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Gopher Tortoise Council. Florida State Museum., Gainesville, Florida.

Franz, R. 1991. Remember the drought? Florida Wildlife: 10-12.

Franz, R., Dodd, Jr, C.K. and Jones, C. 1988. Natural history notes: Rana areolata aesopus (Florida gopher frog). Movement. Herpetological Review: 33.

Gentry, J.B. and Smith, M.H. 1968. Food habits and burrow associates of Peromyscus polionotus. Journal of Mammalogy: 562-565.

Gibbons, J.W. and Semlitsch, R.D. 1981. Terrestrial drift fences with pitfall traps: an effective technique for quantitative sampling of animal populations. Brimleyana: 1-16.

Godley, J.S. 1992. Gopher frog Rana capito Le Conte. In: Moler, P.E. (ed.), Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Volume III. Amphibians and Reptiles, pp. 15-19. Univ. Press of Florida.

Goin, C.J. and Netting, M.G. 1940. A new gopher frog from the Gulf Coast, with comments upon the Rana areolata group. Annals of Carnegie Museum, Art: 137-168.

Greenberg, C.H. 2001. Spatio-temporal dynamics of pond use and recruitment in Florida gopher frogs (Rana capito aesopus). Journal of Herpetology: 74-85.

IUCN. 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 23 November 2004.

Jensen, J.B. 2000. Natural history notes: Rana capito (gopher frog). Predation. Herpetological Review: 42.

Jensen, J.B. and Richter, S. 2005. Rana capito Le Conte, 1855. In: Lannoo, M.J. (ed.), Amphibian Declines: the Conservation Status of United States Species, pp. 536-538. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Jensen. J.B., Bailey, M.A., Blankenship, E.L. and Camp, C.D. 2003. The relationship between breeding by the gopher frog, Rana capito (Amphibia: Ranidae) and rainfall. American Midland Naturalist: 185-190.

Jensen, J.B., Palis, J.G. and Bailey, M.A. 1995. Natural history notes: Rana capito sevosa (Dusky Gopher Frog) submerged vocalization. SSAR herpetological review: 98.

Jensen, R.C. and LaClaire, L.V. 1995. Geographic distribution: Rana capito. Herpetological Review: 106.

LaClaire, L.V. 1995. Vegetation of selected upland temporary ponds in north and north-central Florida. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History: 69-96.

LaClaire, L.V. and Franz, R. 1990. Importance of isolated wetlands in upland landscapes. In: Kelly, M. (ed.), The Role of Aquatic Plants in Florida's Lakes and Rivers. Proc. second ann. mtg. Florida Lake Manag. Soc., Orlando, Florida, pp. 9-15.

Lee, D.S. 1968. Herpetofauna associated with central Florida mammals. Herpetologica: 83-84.

Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R. and Harrison III, J.R. 1980. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Means, D.B. 1986. Threatened: dusky gopher frog. In: Mount, R.H. (ed.), Vertebrate Animals of Alabama in Need of Special Attention, pp. 30-31. Alabama Agricul. Exp. Sta. Auburn University, Auburn, AL.

Means, D.B. 2001. Pine silviculture in the southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain: effects on amphibians. Status and Conservation of U.S. Amphibians. Volume 1: Conservation Essays, University of California Press, Berkeley, California.

Miller, B.T. and Campbell, D.L. 1996. Geographic distribution: Rana capito. Herpetological Review: 86-87.

Moler, P.E. and Franz, R. 1987. Wildlife values of small, isolated wetlands in the southeastern coastal plain. In: Odum, R.R., Riddleberger, K.A. and Ozier, J.C. (eds), Proceedings of the Third Southeast Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Symposium, pp. 234-241. Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Atlanta, GA.

Moulis, R.A. 1995. A survey of eastern Georgia for gopher frogs (Rana capito ssp.), with notes on the occurrence of Notophthalmus perstriatus and Ambystoma cingulatum. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Unpublished report, Jackson, Mississippi.

Moulis, R.A. 1995. A survey of suitable habitat in southwestern Georgia for the gopher frog (Rana capito ssp.), striped newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus), and flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum). Report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson, Mississippi.

Mount, R.H. 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, Alabama.

Palis, J.G. 1998. Breeding biology of the gopher frog, Rana capito, in western Florida. Journal of Herpetology: 217-223.

Palis, J.G. and Jensen, J.B. 1995. Distribution and breeding biology of the flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) and gopher frog (Rana capito) on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Final Report. Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Tallahassee, Florida.

Redmond, W.H. and Scott, A.F. 1996. Atlas of Amphibians in Tennessee (Miscellaneous Publication Number 12). The Center for Field Biology, Austin Peay State University, Miscellaneous Publication Number 12, Clarksville, TN, USA.

Robbins, L.E. and Myers, R.L. 1992. Seasonal effects of prescribed burning in Florida: a review. Nongame Wildlife Program Technical Report., Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee, Florida.

Semlitsch, R.D., Gibbons, J.W. and Tuberville, T.D. 1995. Timing of reproduction and metamorphosis in the Carolina gopher frog (Rana capito capito) in South Carolina. Journal of Herpetology: 612-614.

Seyle, C.W. 1994. Distribution and status of the gopher frog (Rana capito) and flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) in Georgia. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Unpublished report, Jackson, Mississippi.

Shaffer, H.B., Alford, R.A., Woodward, B.D., Richards, S.J., Alting, R.G. and Gascon, C. 1994. Quantitative sampling of amphibian larvae. In: Heyer, W.R., Donnely, M.A., McDiarmid, R.W., Hayek, L.C. and Foster, M.S. (eds), Measuring and Monitoring Biological Diversity, Standard Methods for Amphibians, pp. 130-141. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Travis, J. 1994. Calibrating our expectations in studying amphibian populations. Herpetologica: 104-108.

Travis, J., Keen, W.H. and Juilianna, J. 1985. The role of relative body size in a predator-prey relationship between dragonfly naiads and larval anurans. Oikos: 59-65.

Volpe, E.P. 1958. The early development of Rana capito sevosa. Tulane Studies in Zoology: 207-225.

Ware, S., Frost, C. and Doerr, P.D. 1993. Southern mixed hardwood forest: the former longleaf pine forest. In: Martin, W.H., Boyce, S.G. and Echternacht, A.C. (eds), Biodiversity of the southeastern United States: Lowland terrestrial communities, pp. 447-493. John Wiley and Sons, New York.

Webster, W.D., Parnell, J.F. and Biggs, W.C. Jr. 1985. Mammals of the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Wood, D.A. 1992. Official Lists of Endangered and Potentially Endangered Fauna and Flora in Florida. Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee, Florida.

Wright, A.H. and Wright, A.A. 1949. Handbook of frogs and toads of the United States and Canada. Comstock Publishing Company, Inc, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Young, J.E. 1997. Taxonomic status of Rana capito and Rana sevosa: reproduction and movements of Rana sevosa in Mississippi. Masters Thesis, pp. 40 pp. Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana.

Young, J.E. and Crother, B.I. 2001. Allozyme evidence for the separation of Rana areolata and Rana capito and for the ressurrection of Rana sevosa. Copeia: 382-388.

Citation: Geoffrey Hammerson, John Jensen. 2004. Lithobates capito. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T58564A11786752. . Downloaded on 10 October 2015.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided