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INTRODUCTION

The intent of this guide is to provide biologists and laypersons with a usable field reference for identifying tadpoles of most of the frog species found in the Southeastern United States Coastal Plain region.  Specifically this guide is focused on the 23 species of frogs found at Southeast ARMI inventory and monitoring sites in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, including St. Marks, St. Vincent, Lower Suwannee, Cedar Keys, Okefenokee, Harris Neck, and Savannah National Wildlife Refuges and the Katharine Ordway Preserve-Swisher Memorial Sanctuary in Putnam County, Florida.

ARMI Biologist Dr. Margaret Gunzburger dip-netting for tadpoles on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. - click to enlarge

ARMI Biologist Dr. Margaret Gunzburger dip-netting
for tadpoles on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.

This guide includes all species of frogs found in the Southeast ARMI region of the continental United States (TN, NC, SC, GA, AL, FL) except those species not found at any of the current ARMI monitoring sites (Hyla andersonii, Pseudacris feriarum, Pseudacris brachyphona, Pseudacris brimleyi, Acris crepitans, Rana okaloosae, Rana palustris, Rana sylvatica, Bufo americanus, Bufo fowleri, and the introduced species Bufo marinus and Eleutherodactylus planirostris).

The objective of the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative of the United States Geological Survey is to understand the status and trends of amphibian populations throughout the United States and to evaluate potential causes of population declines.  A critical component of achieving this objective is to be able to identify the species of amphibians present at each sampling site.  Tadpoles are considered difficult to identify by most biologists, yet monitoring tadpole populations may be more feasible than monitoring adult frogs because for many species tadpoles are present in habitats for longer periods of time than adults and thus may be the life stage encountered most often.

For many species of frogs that occur over a wide geographic range there is considerable variation in tadpole appearance and size across the range. In addition, tadpole appearance may vary over a small geographic scale due to habitat characteristics such as the amount of tannins in water or the presence of fish predators. We obtained estimates of maximum size and descriptions of tadpole appearance from a variety of literature sources (see references) and our own observations, however we recognize that for many species sufficient data are lacking. Due to this variation no field guide will present a perfect guide to the appearance of tadpoles in nature, thus it is recommended to use this guide in conjunction with other guides listed in the References section.

This guide will be continually updated with new photographs and information from ARMI sampling sites throughout the Southeastern United States. Eventually the guide will be expanded to include all 35 species of frogs found in this region.  Please send comments and suggestions to address on inside front cover.

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