Lithobates areolatus
(Baird & Girard 1852)

lĭth-ō-bā'-tēz — ər-ē-ō-lā'-tŭs

Kansas Species in Need of Conservation (SINC)

An adult from Anderson County, Kansas. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
An adult emerging from a burrow in Crawford County. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
A tadpole of Rana areolata. Image © Altig et al. (2006).

The Crawfish Frog is relatively large and robust, and only the bullfrog reaches a greater maximum size. It can be distinguished by all other Kansas frogs by its reticulate pattern of light-edged dark blotches covering the dorsal surface of its body from head to toe. The dorsolateral fold is present; however, the pattern partially obfuscates it. Often the blotches across the legs are elongated and form a banding pattern. The belly is white to cream colored and may exhibit speckling to various degrees along the edges. The snout is distinctively rounded.
Adults normally 57-75 mm (2¼-3 inches) in SVL; largest Kansas specimen: female (FHSM 10447) from Bourbon County with SVL of 122 mm (4¾ inches) collected by Derek Welch and Curtis J. Schmidt on 31 March 2005; exceeds maximum length throughout their range as reported in Conant and Collins (1998).

This taxon is known from the Neosho, Marais des Cygnes, and northern Verdigris drainages, where they inhabit areas of perched water tables in upland grasslands with an abundance of crayfish. The northernmost records from Baker Wetlands/Wakarusa Bottoms (floodplain of the Wakarusa River: Kansas River drainage) in Douglas County may be extirpated.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 570 Total Records 
  • 341 Museum Vouchers 
  • 229 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (7); Anderson (13); Bourbon (25); Chase (1); Chautauqua (12); Cherokee (94); Coffey (80); Crawford (20); Douglas (97); Elk (10); Franklin (41); Greenwood (25); Labette (27); Linn (11); Lyon (3); Miami (12); Montgomery (21); Neosho (19); Osage (18); Unknown (12); Wilson (16); Woodson (4);

Natural History:
Despite their relatively large size, these frogs are seldom seen. Following rains sufficient enough to flood its refugia in crayfish burrows and concomitant temperatures above 50° F, this species emerges and begins to call. Their call is a low snore that can be heard for over a mile on still nights. Most breeding observations have occurred during late March through April, however, a calling male has been reported as late as 28 September. In any given year the breeding season is short, often only for a week or two. The eggs are laid in masses of over 300 and are suspended in the top of the water column, just below the surface. Egg masses will adhere to vegetation as available, soon after being deposited.
An individual from Douglas County contained two "good-sized" crayfish (Hartman 1906).

Occurrence Activity:
The blue dates denote chorusing actity. The red ates are other occurrences. The darker a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.

Audio recording by Keith Coleman.

Chorusing Phenology: The black dots illustrate the actual Julian date (day of the year; 1 January = 1 to 31 December = 365) observations were made. The thin red line depicts the range of dates between the beginning of the first, and end of the fourth quartile (excluding outliers; Tukey method). The thick light blue bar represents the second and third quartile (interquartile range; the middle 50% of all observations). Only one observation per Julian date is included in the graphs; so a date with multiple observations carries the same weight as a date with only one observation. The vertical bars correspond to the 12 months of the year; January through December.
# Unique Obervations: 252; Range: 06 Mar to 07 Jul; Interquartile range: 24 Mar to 24 Apr;

The Crawfish Frog was first reported in Kansas by Hartman, (1906). The earliest existing specimen is from 1910 (KU 9275).
Busby (1997) suggested that Crawfish Frogs were locally common in Kansas. And that they may be the dominant Ranid in high-quality habitat (remnant tallgrass prairie). However, he cautioned that little of this habitat exists compared to pre-settlement times.
No Crawfish Frogs were observed during 2004, despite what seemed to be ideal conditions. However, in 2005, several new localities were discovered, in Greenwood, Chautauqua, Montgomery, Wilson, Neosho, Labette, Bourbon, Linn, and Coffey counties. All of the observations made were in conjunction with breeding activity, by either hearing choruses or intercepting adults moving to a breeding site. Individuals of both sexes would congregate in larger water-filled depression and small farm ponds generally (but not always) with some emergent vegetation such as cattails present. Additionally, individuals were regularly observed while attempting to cross roads on a rainy night, but only while chorusing was taking place nearby. In fact, the detection of a frog on the road, more than once revealed the existence of an adjacent chorus that we might otherwise have missed.
The Crawfish Frog is an abundant yet seldom seen component of the Kansas herpetofauna. Reports prior to Busby (1997) were generally isolated and infrequent (e.g. Hartman (1906), Taggart (1992)). The Crawfish Frog's early and relatively brief breeding season and its secretive habit of remaining in burrows the remainder of the year create the perception of rarity.
Despite, our increased understanding of the distribution and natural history of this species in Kansas, a cautionary note is needed. The populations of Crawfish Frogs have been extirpated from a portion of their range along the Wakarusa River near Lawrence by 1979 (von Achen, 1987). There is no apparent explanation for the disappearance, and this example further demonstrates that even the best-studied and managed systems are not exempt from such catastrophes. A repatriation attempt (J. Collins, pers. com.) into the Baker Wetlands of Crawfish Frogs from Anderson County, has not been shown to be successful.
The Crawfish Frog was listed as a Kansas Threatened species in 1978 and downlisted to SINC in 1993.

1852 Baird, Spencer F. and Charles Girard. Characteristics of some new reptiles in the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Third part. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 6():173
1906 Hartman, Frank A. Food habits of Kansas lizards and batrachians. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 20():225-229
1932 Mansfield, Robert R. A Comparative study of the Helminthes of the Anura from five given localities. Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. 35pp.
1933 Smith, Hobart M. The Amphibians of Kansas Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 383pp.
1940 Goin, Coleman J. and M. Graham Netting. A new gopher frog from the Gulf Coast, with comments upon the Rana areolata group. Annals of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History 28(28):137-168
1943 Bailey, Reeve M. Four species new to the Iowa herpetofauna, with notes on their natural histories. Iowa Academy of Science 50():347-352
1953 Bragg, Arthur N. A study of Rana areolata in Oklahoma. Wasmann Journal of Biology 11(3):273-318
1953 Schmidt, Karl P. A Check List of North American Amphibians and Reptiles. 6th Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. 280pp.
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1958 Clarke, Robert F., John Breukelman, and T. F. Andrews. An annotated check list of the vertebrates of Lyon County, Kansas Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 62(2):165-195
1959 Collins, H. H. Complete Field Guide to American Wildlife. Harper and Brothers, New York. pp.
1965 Schroeder, Eugene. E. and Thomas. S. Baskett. Frogs and Toads of Missouri. Missouri Conservationist ():11
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1977 Caldwell, Janalee P. Crawfish Frogs snore again in southeast Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (17):7
1977 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Joseph T. Collins. New records of fishes, amphibians and reptiles in Kansas. Technical Publication of the State Biological Survey of Kansas (4):63-78
1977 Rundquist, Eric M. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians of Cherokee County, Kansas. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 12pp.
1982 Collins, Joseph T. Report to the Kansas Fish and Game Commission on the status of three amphibians in southeastern Kansas. Kansas Fish and Game Commission, Pratt. 57pp.
1983 Altig, Ronald and Ren Lohefener. Rana areolata. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (324):1-4
1984 Clarke, Robert F. Frogs and toads in Kansas. Kansas School Naturalist 30(3):1-15
1985 Collins, Joseph T. (Editor) Natural Kansas. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1987 Von Achen, Pennie. Population status and habitat preference of the threatened Northern Crawfish Frog in the Baker University wetlands. ():3
1988 Boyd, R. L. Baker University natural areas. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 91():52-54
1989 Simmons, John E. Endangered and threatened in Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter 75():42830
1990 Busby, William H. An inventory of three prairie animals in eastern Kansas. Report 45. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 34pp.
1990 Collins, Joseph T. Maximum size records for Kansas amphibians and reptiles. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (81):13-17
1991 Boyd, R. Baker University wetlands. Pages 106-125 in Multidisciplinary Guidebook 4, Kansas Academy of Science, Lawrence. pp.
1992 Taggart, Travis W. Observations on Kansas amphibians and reptiles Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (88):13-15
1993 Freeman, Craig C. and William H. Busby. A survey for endangered and threatened species on the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, Johnson County, Kansas. Report No. 54. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 115pp.
1994 Collins, Joseph T. Specific bibliographies for fifteen kinds of amphibians and reptiles that may occur in the Neosho River drainage. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. 134pp.
1995 Moriarty, Emily C. and Joseph T. Collins. First known occurrence of amphibian species in Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (100):28-30
1997 Busby, William H. and William R. Brecheisen. Chorusing phenology and habitat associations of the Crawfish Frog, Rana areolata Southwestern Naturalist 42(2):210-217
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2003 Burr, Andrew and C. Burr. Geographic distribution: Rana areolata. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (6):8
2003 Taggart, Travis W. Kansas Herpetological Society 2003 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (5):3-4
2005 Hillis, David M. and Thomas P. Wilcox Phylogeny of the New World True Frogs (Rana) Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34(2):299-314
2005 Richter, Stephen C. and Richard E. Broughton. Development and characterization of polymorphic microsatellite DNA loci for the endangered dusky gopher frog, Rana sevosa, and two closely related species, Rana capito and Rana areolata. Molecular Ecology Notes 5():436-438
2005 Taggart, Travis W. and Curtis J. Schmidt. Geographic distribution: Rana areolata (Chautauqua County, Kansas). Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):11
2005 Taggart, Travis W. and Curtis J. Schmidt. Geographic distribution: Rana areolata (Montgomery County, Kansas). Journal of Kansas Herpetology (14):11
2006 Altig, Ronald, Roy W. McDiarmid, Kimberly A. Nichols, and Paul C. Ustach Tadpoles of the United States and Canada: A Tutorial and Key Electronic files accessible at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA. ():
2006 Anderson, Lewis R. and Joseph A. Arruda. Land use and anuran biodiversity in southeast Kansas, USA. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 4(1):46-59
2006 Bartlett, Richard D. and Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America (North of Mexico). University Press of Florida, Gainesville. pp.
2006 Frost, D., T. Grant, J. Faivovich, R. Bain, A. Haas, C. Haddad, R. De Sá, A. Channing, M. Wilkinson, S. Donnellan, C. Raxworthy, J. Campbell, B. Blotto, P. Moler, R. C. Drewes, R. Nussbaum, J. Lynch, D. Green & W. Wheeler The amphibian tree of life Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (297):370
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2006 Tweet, F. and L. Tweet. A Crawfish Frog from Crawford County. Journal of Kansas Herpetology 17():6
2006 Welch, Derek and Curtis J. Schmidt A world record Crawfish Frog Journal of Kansas Herpetology (17):7
2008 Taggart, Travis W. Geographic distribution. Lithobates areolatus (Crawfish Frog). Journal of Kansas Herpetology (26):6
2008 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2008 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (25):2-3
2012 Heemeyer, Jennifer L. and Michael J. Lannoo. Breeding migrations in Crawfish Frogs (Lithobates areolatus): Long-distance movements, burrow philopatry, and mortality in a near-threatened species. Copeia 2012(3):440-450
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
Account Last Updated:
2/18/2020 9:15:31 AM

Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University