Southern Leopard Frog
(Lithobates sphenocephalus)

Description: Like other members of its genus, the adult Southern Leopard frog has long hind legs, webbed feet, a large visible tynpanum (eardrum) and a pointed snout. Rounded, dark spots pattern a brown or tan body, and there is often splotches of green between the spots. A dorsal lateral fold (or ridge) extends from behind the eyes to the groin of the hind legs. 

Natural History: During breeding season – late winter and early spring – These frogs can be found in almost any slow moving and shallow freshwater wetland in South Carolina. This includes marshes, swamps, retention ponds, carolina bays, and roadside ditches. If a new wetland is created, the Southern Leopard Frog is often the first amphibian to show up. They have been known to inhabit brackish water habitats as well.

They also can be quite terrestrial, especially compared to other members of the genus. They may be spotted hopping accross a moist forest floor or dewy meadow. They consume almost anything they fit their mouth around including many insect species, other small amphibians, and small reptiles. In turn, they themselves are consumed by birds, reptiles, and small mammals.    

Similar Species: The Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris) is the most similar and can be the most confusing other species in our area. The Pickerel Frog has pairs of dark, square spots patterning the back and sides as well as vibrant yellow/orange flash colors on the inside of the hindlegs. The Leopard Frog has rounded spots, and no flash colors on the inside of the legs. Leopard frogs also may have greenish blotches and a white spot in the center of their tenpanum. Other members of the genus can have a similar size and shape, but will not have as stark ‘leopard-patterning’ and may not have dorsal lateral ridges.  

Distribution:  This frog is wide spread throughout the Eastern and midwestern United States. They are found throughout South Carolina. 

Contributed by Jake Zadik (4/25/2023)