Interesting Facts About Dusky Gopher Frog: A Very Endangered Species

Mississippi Gopher Frog

Mississippi Gopher Frog

The dusky gopher frog, also known as Mississippi gopher frog, is a medium-sized frog with a wart-covered body that’s brown, gray or black with dark spots. It has ridges along its back. On average, this secretive frog is eight centimeters (three inches) long, with a black or dark brown dorsal surface covered in warts.
The dusky gopher frog is a rare species of true frog. It’s endemic to the southern United States. Its natural habitats are intermittent freshwater marshes and temperate, coastal forests.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the dusky gopher frog is on the list of top 100 most endangered species in the world. The decline is mainly due to habitat destruction. The estimated population of this species is less than 150 in the wild.
A rather stocky amphibian with a warty back, the dusky gopher frog is named for its dark coloration and its tendency to shelter in the burrows of the gopher tortoise. The dusky gopher frog is considered the most endangered frog species in North America.
The dusky gopher frog has a huge head, with a remarkably largemouth. There are prominent ridges down the back. Its limbs are short and thick. The hind feet only have minimal webbing between its toes.
The upperparts of this frog are always dark but can vary from almost uniform black to brown or grey, with large, darker brown spots. Also, there are dark spots on the chest and chin. Today, we would like to share with you some interesting facts about the dusky gopher frog you probably didn’t know.
1. The female dusky gopher frog is usually larger than the male. The tadpoles of this frog are greenish-brown and measure up to 7.4 centimeters in length.
2. The primary threat to the dusky gopher frog is the loss of habitat, mainly native longleaf pine forests and loss of fishless ephemeral wetlands. Fire suppression, development, and urban sprawl have contributed to the decline of the longleaf pine forest that once covered 90 million acres in the South, from Virginia to Texas.
3. Scientists and researchers previously thought the dusky gopher frog was a subspecies of the gopher frog. However, genetic studies have since shown it to be a different species. The call of males is described as a distinctive, deep, continuous ‘snore.’ Some males call while underwater.
4. An adult dusky gopher frog feeds on various insects and other prey, including grasshoppers, beetles, worms, and spiders. Its large mouth probably enables it to eat larger prey such as toads and other frogs. Unlike adults, the tadpoles of this species feed on plant matter.
5. The dusky gopher frog is considered as rarest amphibian in North America. The only known remaining population of these frogs consists of about 100 adult frogs in Glen’s Pond at Harrison County, Mississippi. Many possible sites are located in Jackson County, Mississippi. The State of Mississippi and the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the dusky gopher frog as endangered in 1992 and 2001 respectively.
Male dusky gopher frogs typically arrive at the breeding pond before the females to set up and defend territories and eventually calling to attract a mate. Heavy rains from hurricanes or tropical storms may stimulate earlier breeding, in late summer or autumn. Glen’s Pond usually holds water from December or January until June or August, with the dusky gopher frog breeding there between December and April.
6. When a predator threats an adult dusky gopher frog, it defends itself by covering its eyes with its front feet, inflating the body, and secreting a pungent, bitter, milky liquid from prominent warts on its back.
7. Males reach maturity at about six to eight months old, but females don’t mature until about 24 to 36 months old. The female dusky gopher frog typically lays between 500 and 3,000 eggs, attaching them to small trees, aquatic vegetation or floating wooden debris. The tadpoles take 81 to 179 days to develop. The rate at which metamorphosis takes place can vary significantly between years depending on the water temperature. The immature frogs referred to as ‘metamorphs,’ emerge from the pond between May and July and they leave along specific migratory pathways. The mature adults also return to their underground retreats after breeding.

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