Pickerel Frog (Rana [Lithobates] palustris)

Pickerel Frog (Rana [Lithobates] palustris)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

Description: The Pickerel Frog is a relatively large frog [2 – 4 in (4.5 – 7.5 cm)] that is identified by the 2 rows of dark-squarish spots running down its back between its dorsolateral folds and its light colored, blotchy belly. These spots occur on top of a dark green-brown background color. This frog is sometimes confused with the Leopard Frog, but can be differentiated by the square spots, as mentioned, or by the bright yellow flash colors that occur on the under side of its hind legs. These flash colors are used to confuse predators while trying to escape. Females are usually larger than males. Male Pickerel frogs are recognized by their paired vocal sacs, stout forearms and swollen thumbs. These frogs produce toxic skin secretions that are irritating to humans and can be fatal to other small animals, especially other amphibians. Many frog-eating snakes avoid these frogs for this reason.

Range and Habitat: In North America Rana [Lithobates] palustris is found from the Canadian Maritime Provinces south to the Carolinas, and west to form a line from Minnesota to Texas. In Georgia it is scattered throughout the piedmont and mountains. Rana [L.] palustris prefers to reside in slow-moving streams, ponds, lakes and swampy areas with low, dense vegetation and cooler temperatures than Leopard Frogs.

Habits: Pickerel Frogs breed between late March and early May laying spherical egg masses attached to branches in temporary ponds. These eggs masses can contain 700-3000 eggs with each having a diameter of 1.6 mm. When these eggs hatch, the tadpoles emerge into the water and begin metamorphosis. It takes about 87-95 days before these tadpoles can emerge out of the water as frogs, then another 2 years for them to reach sexual maturity. As tadpoles, Pickerel Frogs are herbivorous, but then become carnivorous as adults. While carnivorous they eat mainly invertebrates.

Call: Males attract the females by emitting a low snore-like call.

Conservation status: Rana [L.] palustris is currently a stable population and not protected by the state of Georgia or by the Federal government.

Account Author: Anna Tarter, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson, Katrina Ford, Lauren Maynor