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Carpenter Frog

The Carpenter Frog is an aquatic frog species native to the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. They occupy the same space as many other common frog species of the area. Distinctive bright lines and mottled rear legs helps distinguish them from other similar species.

Conservation efforts are light as the species does not have many threats and is so listed as a species of least concern. 

Common NameCarpenter Frog 
Other NameNone 
Scientific NameRana virgatipes
LocationsCoastal Plain of the southeastern United States 
CharacteristicsFour brightly colored lines 
Dark mottled appearance on rear legs 
ColorBrown and dark brown 
OriginThe United States 
Conservation StatusLeast Concern 
FamilyRanidae
GeniusLithobates
SpeciesRana virgatipes
PoisonousNo
Max Length6.7cm / 2.6inches 
Max WeightUnknown 
LifespanLess than 3 years in the wild 
Around 6 years in captivity 

Geographical Location

Carpenter Frogs are found in the Coastal Plain of the United States.

This landscape region runs along the eastern coast from north to south.

They can be found in states between New Jersey to Georgia and the very northern portion of Florida.

Preferred Habitat 

This is almost an entirely aquatic frog species.

They reside in sphagnum moss dominated bogs and swamps in forested areas.

They can be found occupying a variety of aquatic habitats that have ample vegetation to hide under. 

Lakes, ponds, and slow moving waterways that are tea-colored are favorites among Carpenter Frogs.

Cranberry bogs are also highly suitable for them.

Vegetation is extremely important and a necessary attribute to any habitat occupied by Carpenter Frogs. 

Since they are an aquatic frog species, their habitat is year round.

So, it must be plentiful or they will find another pond.

They will eat and breed from these habitats and rarely venture on shore or far from their home pond. 

Coloration and Characteristics 

Carpenter Frogs are usually a darker color.

They have a brown dorsum with darker brown markings down their backs and sides.

These mottled markings are heavier on the back legs. 

Four lightly colored golden stripes run along their bodies.

Two lines run dorsolaterally, which is along their top sides.

The other two lines run just laterally, along their sides. 

Their ventrum belly is pale white or yellow.

Back feet have completely webbed toes, since they are an aquatic species.

These markings and colorations assist the frog with habitat camouflage so they can blend into their surrounding environment. 

Potential Threats and Current Conservation Status 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) last assessed Carpenter Frogs in 2021.

They were found to be a species of least concern, meaning, there are no current major active threats to their population numbers. 

Their population trend is unknown, which means more surveys would need to be conducted to find the true nature of this species.

They are secretive and difficult to find on surveys, so that could be difficult. 

Potential threats that apply to them, as well as many other species of amphibian, included habitat loss and degradation.

Since standing water pools are their juvenile and adult habitat, it is important that the quality of the water stays appropriate and unpolluted. 

Overwintering and Breeding Season and Behaviors 

Carpenter Frogs overwinter in the mud and substrate underwater.

Since their adult habitat and breeding pools are one and the same, they stay on the bottom of the body of water until spring. 

They do not migrate since they breed in their adult habitats.

Breeding season is typically late spring from May to July.

However, males can call anywhere from April to August. 

Males have paired vocal sacs and a larger tympanic membrane, which is the membrane covering their ears.

Males are territorial and will use vocalizations as well as physical attributes to defend their territory. 

Males will call to females from open water while seated on vegetation.

Females will come into their territory to breed.

Larger males tend to hold more territory than smaller ones. 

Eggs and Larval Life Stage 

Females lay between 200 to 600 eggs in a globular mass.

Another reason habitat vegetation is so important is to be an anchor for these egg masses.

Females lay egg masses attached to underwater vegetation.  

Larvae emerge from their eggs colored brown and display the mottled spots adults have.

They have lateral stripes on their tails and fins. 

The interesting thing about Carpenter Frogs is the length of their tadpole stage.

Tadpoles can live up to a year before developing into an adult and can grow to be very large.

They average 55mm, but can grow to be up to 100mm in length!

Namesake of The Carpenter Frog

The name ‚ÄúCarpenter Frog‚ÄĚ comes from the sound of the call they make.

It sounds like the hammering of a carpenter.

Males can call 10 times in succession and have different calls, including an aggressive call used when defending their territory from other males. 

Watch this video below for a short recap about Carpenter Frogs.

Here, their call is well heard. It sounds like someone is hammering wood! 

Mating Call of the Carpenter Frog (Rana Virgatipes)

How to Find A Carpenter Frog In the Wild

  • Realize you may not find one. They are very secretive and difficult to find since they blend in so well to their habitats.¬†

  • Visit the southeastern coastal plain of the United States, between New Jersey and Florida.¬†

  • Search at night, Carpenter Frogs are nocturnal.¬†

  • Search heavily vegetated pools in forested areas.¬†

Fun Facts About Carpenter Frogs! 

  • The species name virgatipes means ‚Äústriped foot,‚ÄĚ which refers to the markings on their rear feet.¬†

  • ¬†Their most prevalent predators are species of water snake.¬†

  • Their diet consists of crayfish, insects, and invertebrates.¬†

Sources

AmphibiaWeb. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://amphibiaweb.org

Carpenter frog (Rana [lithobates] virgatipes). Species Profile: Carpenter Frog (Rana [Lithobates] virgatipes) | SREL Herpetology. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://srelherp.uga.edu/anurans/ranvir.htm 

IUCN. 2022. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-2. https://www.iucnredlist.org.

Morrow, D. (n.d.). Lithobates virgatipes (Carpenter Frog). Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved from https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lithobates_virgatipes/ 

“True”Frogs (Family Ranidae). Carpenter Frog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/frogs/carpenterfrog.shtml 

Virginia Herpetological Society. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/amphibians/frogsandtoads/carpenter-frog/carpenter_frog.php