Lithobates Tadpoles

The next few weeks will be ideal for dipnetting the Munson Sandhill wetlands.  The winter-breeding amphibian larvae will be nice and large, easier to identify!   We have found gopher frog tadpoles in quite a few wetlands and I thought it would be good to provide a few details for identifying Lithobates tadpoles.

Remember Lithobates is the genus for the true frogs.  The tadpoles have eyes toward the top of their head, not on the sides like the other tadpoles.   The species you may encounter include bullfrog, gopher frog, pig frog, and southern leopard frog.

If your tadpole is green it could either be a bullfrog or a gopher frog.  Gopher frog tadpoles are not always green, but usually they are a yellowish greenish color.  They have spotted tails so that’s a good ID clue.

Gopher frog - yellowish green with a spotted tail

Bullfrogs usually have what looks like stitching along their body.  They, too, have spots but they are like tiny dots.  So if you have a greenish tadpole with spots = gopher frog.  Greenish tadpole with stitching and tiny dots = bullfrog.

Bullfrog tadpoles are bright green, huge, have stitching on body and tiny, scattered dots on tail.

Pig frogs will have spotted tails but the spots will be in a line along the tail fin.

Pig frog tadpole tail fins have a row of spots along the top.

Southern leopard frog tadpoles are usually dark in color and spotted, but they greatly vary.  Look for the white mustache and/or the vertical white line down the snout.  Sorry we don’t have a great picture of this…

Southern leopard frog tadpoles have a white mustache.


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