Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Smilisca fodiens is a frog that can reach sizes of 54 - 63 mm. Females do not differ significantly from males in proportions. The relatively small head is slightly wider than long. The skin of the head is partly co-ossified with underlying cranial bones. The snout when dorsally viewed is acutely rounded and bluntly rounded from the lateral view. The canthal ridges are distinct, where they meet forms a bony internasal ridge. The ridge extends anteriorly to the tip of the snout. The pupil is horizontal and the iris is dull bronze. The hind limbs are short and robust. The fingers are long and have small discs. The fingers are slender and have no webbing. The toes have small amount of webbing. The terminal discs are smaller than the finger discs. The inner metatarsal tubercle is large, elliptical, and spade-like. The skin is granular on the belly, dorsum, and parts of the thighs but otherwise smooth. The vocal sac is subgular and bilobate, and the halves are narrowly separated. The tadpoles have short tails, are pelagic type, have a anteroventral mouth with a large beak, have large papillae both laterally and ventrally, and have two-thirds tooth rows (Trueb 1969).

Smilisca fodiens's closest relative is Smilisca dentata, from which it can be differentiated by S. fodiens having a bony ridge extending from a point between the nostrils to the tip of the acutely rounded snout, digits expanded into small discs, and vocal sacs connected medially in breeding males (Trueb 1969).

In life, the dorsum coloration ranges from tan, pale olive-brown, grey-brown, and pink-brown. There are longitudinal stripes and small spots with dark brown or red-brown coloration and dark brown or black outline. In preservative, the dorsal ground color varies from pale grey-tan to creamy/pink-tan (Trueb 1969).

There is variation in the pattern of stripe/spot arrangement, as well as slight coloration differences (Trueb 1969).

Modifications such as short, robust limbs, squat body, and heavily ossified head allow the frog to live a fossorial existence. The internasal and labial flanges of the frog are adaptations for phragmotic behavior (Trube 1969). Phragmosis involves the frogs using the bony skull to plug the burrow against predators, wind, and loss of moisture (Ford and Finch 1994).

Smilisca fodiens was previously within the genus Pternohyla, which was recently synonymized with Smilisca (Faivovich et al. 2005).

The species epithet, fodiens, comes from the Latin word fodio, meaning to dig; this refers to the digging adaptations of the spade-like inner metatarsal tubercles (Trueb 1969).

  • Faivovich, J., Haddad, C. F. B., Garcia, P. C. A., Frost, D. R., Campbell, J. A., and Wheeler, W. C. (2005). ''Systematic review of the frog family Hylidae, with special reference to Hylinae: phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (294), 1-240.
  • Ford, Paulette L., Finch, D.M. 1994. ''Habitat and Breeding Ecology of Amphibians of the Tropical Deciduous Forests of Jalisco, Mexico.'' United States Department of Agriculture General Technical Report, Downloaded on 17 March 2013 from http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951d03001066w;view=1up;seq=241
  • Santos-Barrera, G., Hammerson, G., Ponce-Campos, P. 2010. Smilisca fodiens. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . Downloaded on 19 March 2013
  • Trueb, L. (1969). ''Pternohyla.'' Catalog of American Amphibians and Reptiles, 77, 1-4.
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Distribution

Range Description

This species occurs from south-central Arizona (Sullivan et al. 1996) in the USA, southward along the Pacific coast through to western Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit and Colima in Mexico. Inland it is found from central Jalisco to northern Michoacán and adjacent Guanajuato, Mexico. It occurs from near sea level to about 1,490m asl (Stebbins 1985).
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) This species occurs from south-central Arizona (Sullivan et al. 1996) in the United States, southward along the Pacific coast through to western Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit and Colima in Mexico. Inland it is found from central Jalisco to northern Michoacán and adjacent Guanajuato, Mexico. It occurs from near sea level to about 1,490m asl (Stebbins 1985).

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Distribution and Habitat

Smilisca fodiens occurs from south-central Arizona in the USA, southward along the Pacific coast through to western Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit and Colima in Mexico. Inland it is found from central Jalisco to northern Michoacán and adjacent Guanajuato, Mexico. It occurs from near sea level to about 1,490m (Santos-Barrera et al. 2010).

In Arizona, S. fodiens lives in burrows in open mesquite grassland. In Mexico it is also found in tropical scrub forests (Santos-Barrera et al. 2010).

Fieldwork in several localities along S. fodiens’s range has recorded well-preserved populations, especially those occurring in Biosphere Reserves. Based on the map in Trueb (1969), there appear to be many populations, particularly in the southern part of its range (Santos-Barrera et al. 2010).

  • Faivovich, J., Haddad, C. F. B., Garcia, P. C. A., Frost, D. R., Campbell, J. A., and Wheeler, W. C. (2005). ''Systematic review of the frog family Hylidae, with special reference to Hylinae: phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (294), 1-240.
  • Ford, Paulette L., Finch, D.M. 1994. ''Habitat and Breeding Ecology of Amphibians of the Tropical Deciduous Forests of Jalisco, Mexico.'' United States Department of Agriculture General Technical Report, Downloaded on 17 March 2013 from http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951d03001066w;view=1up;seq=241
  • Santos-Barrera, G., Hammerson, G., Ponce-Campos, P. 2010. Smilisca fodiens. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . Downloaded on 19 March 2013
  • Trueb, L. (1969). ''Pternohyla.'' Catalog of American Amphibians and Reptiles, 77, 1-4.
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Physical Description

Size

Length: 5 cm

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Ecology

Habitat

Sierra Madre Oriental Pine-oak Forests Habitat

This taxon is found in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests, which exhibit a very diverse community of endemic and specialized species of plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. These high mountains run north to south, beginning in the USA and ending in Mexico. The Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests are a highly disjunctive ecoregion, owing to the fact that they are present only at higher elevations, within a region with considerable expanses of lower elevation desert floor.

The climate is temperate humid on the northeastern slope, and temperate sub-humid on the western slope and highest portions of the mountain range. Pine-oak forest habitat covers most of the region, even though most of the primary forest has been destroyed or degraded. However, the wettest portions house a community of cloud forests that constitute the northernmost patches of this vegetation in Mexico. The forests grow on soils derived from volcanic rocks that have a high content of organic matter. The soils of lower elevations are derived from sedimentary rocks, and some of them are formed purely of limestone. In the northernmost portions of the ecoregion, the forests occur on irregular hummocks that constitute biological "islands" of temperate forest in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. To the south, from Nuevo León southward until Guanajuato and Queretaro, the ecoregion is more continuous along the mainstem of the Sierra Madre Oriental.

Dominant tree species include the pines: the endemic Nelson's Pine (Pinus nelsonii), Mexican Pinyon (P. cembroides), Smooth-bark Mexican Pine (P. pseudostrobus), and Arizona Pine (P. arizonica); and the oaks Quercus castanea and Q. affinis. In mesic environments, the most common species are P. cembroides, and Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana), but in more xeric environments on the west slopes of the mountains, the endemic P. pinceana is more abundant. Gregg's Pine (P. greggii) and Jelecote Pine (P. patula) are endemic.

Many mammalian species wander these rugged hills. Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Puma (Puma concolor), Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis), Collared Peccary (Tayassu tajacu), Coati (Nasua narica), Jaguar (Panthera onca) and Coyote (Canis latrans) are a few of the many diverse mammals that inhabit this ecoregion. Some threatened mammals found in the ecoregion are: Bolaños Woodrat (Neotoma palatina VU); Diminutive Woodrat (Nelsonia neotomodon NT), known chiefly from the western versant of the Sierra Madre; Chihuahuan Mouse (Peromyscus polius NT); and Mexican Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris nivalis EN).

A considerable number of reptilian taxa are found in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests, including three endemic snakes: Ridgenose Rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi); Fox´s Mountain Meadow Snake (Adelophis foxi); and the Longtail Rattlesnake (Crotalus stejnegeri VU), restricted to the central Sierra Madre. An endemic skink occurring in the ecoregion is the Fair-headed Skink (Plestiodon callicephalus). The Striped Plateau Lizard (Sceloporus virgatus) is endemic to the ecoregion. The Sonoran Mud Turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense VU) is found in the ecoregion and ranges from southwestern New Mexico south to northwestern Chihuahua.

The following anuran taxa occur in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests: Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Cane Toad (Rhinella marina); Elegant Narrow-mouthed Toad (Gastrophryne elegans); New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata); Sinaloa Toad (Incilius mazatlanensis); Pine Toad (Incilius occidentalis); Southwestern Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); Plateau Toad (Anaxyrus compactilis); Texas Toad (Anaxyrus speciosus); Sonoran Desert Toad (Incilius alvarius), found only at lower ecoregion elevations here; Rana-ladrona Silbadora (Eleutherodactylus teretistes); Sabinal Frog (Leptodactylus melanonotus); Mexican Leaf Frog (Pachymedusa dacnicolor); Montezuma Leopard Frog (Lithobates montezumae); Yavapai Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Northwest Mexico Leopard Frog (Lithobates magnaocularis); Bigfoot Leopard Frog (Lithobates megapoda), who generally breeds in permanent surface water bodies; Mexican Cascade Frog (Lithobates pustulosus); Tarahumara Frog (Lithobates tarahumarae VU); Western Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti); Lowland Burrowing Frog (Smilisca fodiens); Taylor's Barking Frog (Craugastor occidentalis); Blunt-toed Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus modestus VU), found only at the very lowest elevations of the ecoregion; Shiny Peeping Frog (Eleutherodactylus nitidus); California Chorus Frog (Pseudacris cadaverina); Rio Grande Frog (Lithobates berlandieri); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia); Mexican Treefrog (Smilisca baudinii); Dwarf Mexican Treefrog (Tlalocohyla smithii); Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor); Northern Sheep Frog (Hypopachus variolosus); Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis). There are three salamanders found in the ecoregion: the endemic Sacramento Mountains Salamander (Aneides hardii), found only in very high montane reaches above 2400 meters; Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum); and the Tarahumara Salamander (Ambystoma rosaceum).

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Chihuahuan Desert Habitat

This taxon is found in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is one of the most biologically diverse arid regions on Earth. This ecoregion extends from within the United States south into Mexico. This desert is sheltered from the influence of other arid regions such as the Sonoran Desert by the large mountain ranges of the Sierra Madres. This isolation has allowed the evolution of many endemic species; most notable is the high number of endemic plants; in fact, there are a total of 653 vertebrate taxa recorded in the Chihuahuan Desert.  Moreover, this ecoregion also sustains some of the last extant populations of Mexican Prairie Dog, wild American Bison and Pronghorn Antelope.

The dominant plant species throughout the Chihuahuan Desert is Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata). Depending on diverse factors such as type of soil, altitude, and degree of slope, L. tridentata can occur in association with other species. More generally, an association between L. tridentata, American Tarbush (Flourensia cernua) and Viscid Acacia (Acacia neovernicosa) dominates the northernmost portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. The meridional portion is abundant in Yucca and Opuntia, and the southernmost portion is inhabited by Mexican Fire-barrel Cactus (Ferocactus pilosus) and Mojave Mound Cactus (Echinocereus polyacanthus). Herbaceous elements such as Gypsum Grama (Chondrosum ramosa), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and Hairy Grama (Chondrosum hirsuta), among others, become dominant near the Sierra Madre Occidental. In western Coahuila State, Lecheguilla Agave (Agave lechuguilla), Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), Purple Prickly-pear (Opuntia macrocentra) and Rainbow Cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus) are the dominant vascular plants.

Because of its recent origin, few warm-blooded vertebrates are restricted to the Chihuahuan Desert scrub. However, the Chihuahuan Desert supports a large number of wide-ranging mammals, such as the Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana), Robust Cottontail (Sylvilagus robustus EN); Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Grey Fox (Unocyon cineroargentinus), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Collared Peccary or Javelina (Pecari tajacu), Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus auduboni), Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), Kangaroo Rats (Dipodomys sp.), pocket mice (Perognathus spp.), Woodrats (Neotoma spp.) and Deer Mice (Peromyscus spp). With only 24 individuals recorded in the state of Chihuahua Antilocapra americana is one of the most highly endangered taxa that inhabits this desert. The ecoregion also contains a small wild population of the highly endangered American Bison (Bison bison) and scattered populations of the highly endangered Mexican Prairie Dog (Cynomys mexicanus), as well as the Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus).

The Chihuahuan Desert herpetofauna typifies this ecoregion.Several lizard species are centered in the Chihuahuan Desert, and include the Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum); Texas Banded Gecko (Coleonyx brevis), often found under rocks in limestone foothills; Reticulate Gecko (C. reticulatus); Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texanus); several species of spiny lizards (Scelopoprus spp.); and the Western Marbled Whiptail (Cnemidophorus tigris marmoratus). Two other whiptails, the New Mexico Whiptail (C. neomexicanus) and the Common Checkered Whiptail (C. tesselatus) occur as all-female parthenogenic clone populations in select disturbed habitats.

Representative snakes include the Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Bogertophis subocularis), Texas Blackhead Snake (Tantilla atriceps), and Sr (Masticophis taeniatus) and Neotropical Whipsnake (M. flagellum lineatus). Endemic turtles include the Bolsón Tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus), Coahuilan Box Turtle (Terrapene coahuila) and several species of softshell turtles. Some reptiles and amphibians restricted to the Madrean sky island habitats include the Ridgenose Rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi), Twin-spotted Rattlesnake (C. pricei), Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis), Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii), and Canyon Spotted Whiptail (Cnemidophorus burti).

There are thirty anuran species occurring in the Chihuahuan Desert: Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chircahuaensis); Red Spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus); Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor); Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans); Rio Grande Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides); Cliff Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus marnockii); Spotted Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus guttilatus); Tarahumara Barking Frog (Craugastor tarahumaraensis); Mexican Treefrog (Smilisca baudinii); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia); Montezuma Leopard Frog (Lithobates montezumae); Brown's Leopard Frog (Lithobates brownorum); Yavapai Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Western Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti); Mexican Cascade Frog (Lithobates pustulosus); Lowland Burrowing Frog (Smilisca fodiens); New Mexico Spadefoot (Spea multiplicata); Plains Spadefoot (Spea bombifrons); Pine Toad (Incilius occidentalis); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Couch's Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus couchii); Plateau Toad (Anaxyrus compactilis); Texas Toad (Anaxyrus speciosus); Dwarf Toad (Incilius canaliferus); Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); Eastern Green Toad (Anaxyrus debilis); Gulf Coast Toad (Incilius valliceps); and Longfoot Chirping Toad (Eleutherodactylus longipes VU). The sole salamander occurring in the Chihuahuan Desert is the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).

Common bird species include the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), and the rare Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus). Geococcyx californianus), Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostra), Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata), Scott’s Oriole (Icterus parisorum), Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata), Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), Worthen’s Sparrow (Spizella wortheni), and Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). In addition, numerous raptors inhabit the Chihuahuan Desert and include the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) and the Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
In Arizona, this frog lives in burrows in open mesquite grassland. In Mexico it is also found in tropical scrub forests. It is a terrestrial burrowing species. It is common in temporary pools formed by rains where it also breeds.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Comments: In Arizona, this frog lives in burrows in open mesquite grassland, in Mexico it is also found in tropical scrub forests. It is a terrestrial burrowing species. It is common in temporary pools formed by rains where it also breeds.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Migrates between breeding and nonbreeding habitats.

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Population Biology

Global Abundance

Unknown

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Inactive in cold temperatures and hot, dry weather.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 5.1 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Breeding commences with summer rains, July-August (Behler and King 1979).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Georgina Santos-Barrera, Geoffrey Hammerson, Paulino Ponce-Campos

Reviewer/s
Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.

History
  • 2004
    Least Concern
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate to broad.

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Population

Population
Fieldwork in several localities along its range has recorded well-preserved populations, especially those occurring in Biosphere Reserves. Based on the map in Trueb (1969), there appear to be many populations, particularly in the southern part of its range.

Population Trend
Stable
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Global Short Term Trend: Unknown

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Smilisca fodiens is a terrestrial burrowing species, adapted to living in burrows where humidity is high (Ford and Finch 1994), and lives in xeric environments. It is common in temporary pools formed by rains where it also breeds (Santos-Barrera et al. 2010). The frogs time the onset of breeding with the summer rains from July through August (Ford and Finch 1994). These frogs aestivate by forming cocoons underground (Lannoo 2005).

The call of S. fodiens sounds like a duck quack, as it consists of a series of low-pitched notes (Trueb 1969).

  • Faivovich, J., Haddad, C. F. B., Garcia, P. C. A., Frost, D. R., Campbell, J. A., and Wheeler, W. C. (2005). ''Systematic review of the frog family Hylidae, with special reference to Hylinae: phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (294), 1-240.
  • Ford, Paulette L., Finch, D.M. 1994. ''Habitat and Breeding Ecology of Amphibians of the Tropical Deciduous Forests of Jalisco, Mexico.'' United States Department of Agriculture General Technical Report, Downloaded on 17 March 2013 from http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951d03001066w;view=1up;seq=241
  • Santos-Barrera, G., Hammerson, G., Ponce-Campos, P. 2010. Smilisca fodiens. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . Downloaded on 19 March 2013
  • Trueb, L. (1969). ''Pternohyla.'' Catalog of American Amphibians and Reptiles, 77, 1-4.
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Threats

Major Threats
The species' is threatened by agricultural development in some parts of its range, especially within its wide Mexican range.
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Degree of Threat: Unknown

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

While the population trend is stable, S. fodiens is threatened by agricultural development in some parts of its range, especially within its wide Mexican range. The species can, however, be found in several protected areas (Santos-Barrera et al. 2010).

  • Faivovich, J., Haddad, C. F. B., Garcia, P. C. A., Frost, D. R., Campbell, J. A., and Wheeler, W. C. (2005). ''Systematic review of the frog family Hylidae, with special reference to Hylinae: phylogenetic analysis and taxonomic revision.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (294), 1-240.
  • Ford, Paulette L., Finch, D.M. 1994. ''Habitat and Breeding Ecology of Amphibians of the Tropical Deciduous Forests of Jalisco, Mexico.'' United States Department of Agriculture General Technical Report, Downloaded on 17 March 2013 from http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951d03001066w;view=1up;seq=241
  • Santos-Barrera, G., Hammerson, G., Ponce-Campos, P. 2010. Smilisca fodiens. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . Downloaded on 19 March 2013
  • Trueb, L. (1969). ''Pternohyla.'' Catalog of American Amphibians and Reptiles, 77, 1-4.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The species' range in Mexico includes several protected areas.
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Wikipedia

Smilisca fodiens

The lowland burrowing tree frog, Smilisca fodiens, is a species of frog in the Hylidae family found in Mexico and the United States. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, intermittent freshwater marshes, and temperate desert. It is threatened by habitat loss.

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