Lithobates sphenocephalus
(Cope 1886)

lĭth-ō-bā'-tēz — sfē-nō-sə-fă-lŭs

An adult Southern Leopard Frog from Cherokee County, Kansas. Image © Dan Fogell.
An adult Southern Leopard Frog from Douglas County, Kansas. Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.
A tadpole of Rana sphenocephala. Image © Altig et al. (2006).

They may be bronze to green, with large light-edged dark green to brown spots on its head, back, sides, and legs. The underside of the belly and legs are white to cream. The dorsolateral folds are entire (unbroken).
The dorsolateral folds of the Plains Leopard Frog (Lithobates blairi) are broken and indented posteriorly. The spots of the Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris) are squarish and are typically arranged in rows and the inside of the legs are bright orange.
Adults normally 51-90 mm (2-3½ inches) in SVL; largest Kansas specimen: female (KU 9462) from Montgomery County with a total length of 87 mm (3¼ inches) collected by Theodore E. White and Edward H. Taylor in August 1926; maximum length throughout range: 5 inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).

Found throughout much of the eastern third of Kansas, generally south of the Kansas River and east of the Flint Hills.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details. Export Google Earth (.kml)
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 790 Total Records 
  • 383 Museum Vouchers 
  • 407 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (12); Anderson (2); Bourbon (34); Butler (2); Chautauqua (25); Cherokee (210); Coffey (41); Cowley (1); Crawford (61); Douglas (3); Elk (4); Franklin (4); Greenwood (3); Johnson (5); Labette (77); Linn (92); Lyon (2); Miami (17); Montgomery (88); Neosho (25); Osage (1); Unknown (1); Wabaunsee (2); Wilson (37); Woodson (20); Wyandotte (1);

Natural History:
Southern Leopard Frogs may be active during day or night and are explosive breeders on rainy Spring nights. Southern Leopard Frogs breed primarily in the late winter and early spring. They have been observed calling in the Fall in Kansas, but are not known to produce clutches of eggs.
Southern Leopard Frogs are typically found close to water, however, during the late summer, they may forage far from water. They prey primarily on small arthropods, however, they may eat anything that moves and fits into their mouths.

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: 345; Range: 24 Feb to 20 Jul; Interquartile range: 25 Mar to 25 May;

The records in the Arkansas/Walnut River watersheds Cowley County (FMNH 25651) and Butler County (two KAMP observations) are in need of verification.

1932 Gloyd, Howard K. The herpetological fauna of the Pigeon Lake Region, Miami County, Kansas. Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 15():389-408
1933 Smith, Hobart M. The Amphibians of Kansas Thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence. 383pp.
1956 Loomis, Richard B. The chigger mites of Kansas (Acarina, Trombiculidae). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 37():1195-1443
1974 Pace, Ann E. Systematic and biological studies of the leopard frogs (Rana pipiens complex) of the United States. Miscellaneous Publications, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan (148):1-140
1977 Rundquist, Eric M. and Joseph T. Collins. The amphibians of Cherokee County, Kansas. Kansas Biological Survey, Lawrence. 12pp.
1986 Caldwell, Janalee P. Selection of egg deposition sites: A seasonal shift in the Southern Leopard Frog, Rana sphenocephala. Copeia 1986():249-253
1994 Fitzgerald, Eve and Charles Nilon Classification of habitats for endangered and threatened species in Wyandotte County, Kansas Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt, Kansas. 98pp.
1995 Moriarty, Emily C. and Joseph T. Collins. First known occurrence of amphibian species in Kansas. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (100):28-30
1999 Taggart, Travis W. Cherokee County fall 1999 herp count. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (117):6
2000 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2000 fall field trip. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (122):6-8
2001 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 2000. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):6-8
2002 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 2001. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (1):10-11
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 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2005 fall field trip [to Crawford County]. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (16):19-21
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 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.
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2017 Snyder, Ariel Survey Of Anuran Chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) in Kansas and the Influence of Anuran Life History in Occurrence. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 53pp.
Account Last Updated:
9/22/2018 7:12:00 PM

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