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Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

ARMI » Topics » Species and their Ecology

Species and their Ecology

Mark Roth
M. Roth (ARMI) installing an acoustic recorder and water-level and water-temperature loggers at an amphibian breeding site in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in WI. Photo by: P. Boma.
» Phylum: Chordata
» Class: Amphibia
» Order: Anura (formerly Salientia): Frogs and toads
» Order: Caudata (formerly Urodela): Salamanders
» Order: Gymnophiona: Caecelians

The U.S. is home to approximately 287 of the world’s estimated 6,000 amphibian species. The number of known species changes periodically as new species are discovered and new genetic techniques (e.g. molecular genetics) allow scientists to distinguish among cryptic species.

Brad Glorioso
B. Glorioso (ARMI) with American bullfrog in Atchafalaya Basin, LA conducting amphibian surveys. Photo by: L. Elston.

Amphibian Taxonomy

» Scientific and standard names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. (Crother, B.I. (chair). 2008. Publisher: Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles)

» Amphibian species of the world 5.4, an online reference. (Frost, D. 2010. Publisher: American Museum of Natural History)

» Standard common and current scientific names for North American amphibians, turtles, reptiles and crocodillians. (Collins, J.T., and T.W. Taggart. 2009. Publisher: Center for North American Herpetology)

ARMI conducts research on the natural history of species; writing reports and describing the ecology of America’s amphibians. ARMI also collaborates with federal and state partners to design, implement, and evaluate management actions that benefit T&E and other imperiled amphibian species.

Federal and State Partners: Information about the status, management, and conservation of amphibians is found throughout the ARMI web site [e.g. Products Database and Topics Sections]. Please consult the “National Amphibian Atlas” to identify the approximate range of the species of interest.


National Amphibian Atlas.

ARMI Products on Species and their Ecology

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This is an ARMI Product. Declines revisited: long-term recovery and spatial population dynamics of tailed frog larvae after wildfire
Authors: Hossack BR, Honeycutt RK | Outlet: Biological Conservation
Drought has fueled an increased frequency and severity of large wildfires in many ecosystems. Despite an increase in research on wildfire effects on vertebrates, the vast majority of it has focused on short-term (<5 yrs) effects and there is still little information on the time scale of population recovery for species that decline in abundance after fire. In 2003, a large wildfire in Montana (USA) burned the watersheds of four of eight streams that we sampled for larval Rocky Mountain tailed frogs (Ascaphus montanus) in 2001. Surveys during 2004?2005 revealed reduced abundance of larvae in burned streams relative to unburned streams, with greater declines associated with increased fire extent. Rocky Mountain tailed frogs have low vagility and have several unusual life-history traits that could slow population recovery, including an extended larval period (4 yrs), delayed sexual maturity (6?8 yrs), and low fecundity (<50 eggs/yr). To determine if abundance remained depressed since the 2003 wildfire, we repeated surveys during 2014?2015 and found relative abundance of larvae in burned and unburned streams had nearly converged to pre-fire conditions within two generations. The negative effects of burn extent on larval abundance weakened >58% within 12 yrs after the fire. We also found moderate synchrony among populations in unburned streams and negative spatial autocorrelation among populations in burned streams. We suspect negative spatial autocorrelation among spatially-clustered burned streams reflected increased post-fire patchiness in resources and different rates of local recovery. Our results add to a growing body of work that suggests populations in intact ecosystems tend to be resilient to habitat changes caused by wildfire. Our results also provide important insights into recovery times of populations that have been negatively affected by severe wildfire.

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N. Dotson  
This is an ARMI Product. Occurrence of Amphibians in Northern California Coastal Dune Drainages
Authors: Halstead BJ, Kleeman PM | Date: 2017-07 | Outlet: Northwestern Naturalist 98(2):91-100 | Format: URL
Many coastal dune ecosystems have been degraded by non-native dune vegetation, but these systems might still provide valuable habitat for some taxa, including amphibians. Because restoration of degraded dune systems is occurring and likely to continue, we examined the occurrence of amphibians in drainages associated with a coastal dune ecosystem degraded by invasive plants (European Beachgrass, Ammophila arenaria, and Iceplant, Carpobrotus edulis). We found that occupancy of 3 amphibian species (California Red-legged Frog, Rana draytonii; Sierran Treefrog, Hyliola sierra; and Rough-skinned Newt, Taricha granulosa) among 21 coastal dune drainages was high, with most coastal dune drainages occupied by all 3 species. Furthermore, reproduction of Sierran Treefrogs and California Red-legged Frogs was estimated to occur in approximately 1/2 and 1/3; of the drainages, respectively. The probability of occurrence of Rough-skinned Newts and pre-metamorphic life stages of both anurans decreased during the study, perhaps because of ongoing drought in California or precipitation-induced changes in phenology during the final year of the study. Maintaining structural cover and moist features during dune restoration will likely benefit native amphibian populations inhabiting coastal dune ecosystems.

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USGS Point Reyes  
This is an ARMI Product. Frogs on the Beach: Ecology of California Red-Legged Frogs (Rana draytonii) in Coastal Dune Drainages
Authors: Halstead BJ, Kleeman PM | Date: 2017-04-30 | Outlet: Herpetological Conservation and Biology 12:127–140 | Format: .PDF
California Red-legged Frogs (Rana draytonii) are typically regarded as inhabitants of permanent ponds, marshes, and slow-moving streams, but their ecology in other habitats, such as drainages among coastal dunes, remains obscure. Because coastal dune ecosystems have been degraded by development, off-highway vehicle use, stabilization, and invasive species, these unique ecosystems are the focus of restoration efforts. To better understand the ecology of California Red-legged Frogs in coastal dune ecosystems and to avoid and minimize potential negative effects of dune restoration activities on these rare frogs, we studied their spatial ecology, habitat selection, and survival in coastal dune drainages at Point Reyes National Seashore, California, USA. All 22 radio-marked frogs remained in their home drainages throughout the spring and summer of 2015 and, with some notable exceptions, most remained close to water. Local convex hull home ranges of four out of five California Red-legged Frogs with > 20 observations in dunes were < 1,600 m2. At the population level, frogs were 1.7 (1.2-4.4) times more likely to select sites 1 m closer to water, and were 83 (2.0-17,000) times more likely to select sites with 10% greater percent cover of logs that served as refuges from environmental extremes and predators. On average, California Red-legged Frogs avoided the invasive plants Iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis) and European Beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria). Frogs were 0.68 (0.32-0.89) and 0.55 (0.24-0.75) times as likely to select areas that had 10% greater cover of these plants, respectively. Assuming constant risk of mortality, California Red-legged Frogs had an annual survival rate of 0.70 (range, 0.27-0.96) in coastal dune drainages. This relatively high survival rate suggests that coastal dune drainages provide a locally important habitat for California Red-legged Frogs. Restoration practices that maintain wetted drainages with logjams are likely to benefit California Red-legged Frogs.

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