Coastal Plains Leopard Frog
Lithobates sphenocephalus utricularius

Common Name:

Coastal Plains Leopard Frog

Scientific Name:

Lithobates sphenocephalus



Lithobates is Greek, Litho means "A stone", bates means "One that walks or haunts".


sphenocephalus is Greek meaning "wedge headed".

Average Length:

2 - 3.5 in. (5.1 - 9 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

5 in. (12.7 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This species reaches lengths between 51 and 90 mm (2-3.5 in). The record length is 5 inches. The dorsal coloration is brown, green or some combination. There are a variable number of longitudinally elongated dorsal spots which may be entirely absent. The side of the body has only a few dark spots. There is a distinct light spot in the center of the tympanum and a light line along the upper jaw. The venter is white. Distinct dorso-lateral folds extend the full length of the body. Males are generally smaller, have paired vocal sacs, and enlarged forearms and thumbs. Male vocal sacs are spherical when inflated *11407* *1014*.

REPRODUCTION: This species breeds in winter or early spring, occasionally in the fall. The male breeding call is described as a series of 3 to 5 guttural croaks followed by 2 or 3 "clucks" resembling the sound made by rubbing an inflated balloon. Males are difficult to approach when calling. The female attaches a cluster of several hundred eggs to vegetation submerged immediately beneath the water surface. The cluster is typically 90mm wide by 40mm thick. Breeding frogs frequently congregate and lay numerous clusters of eggs in a small area. Eggs will hatch in 1-2 weeks. Tadpoles are generally 20-25mm long. Metamorphosis occurs in about 3 months when the tadpole reaches 65-70 mm. The newly transformed frogs typically are 20 mm in length *1014*. Some research in Texas has found that this species calls year-round, breeds all months except September, and can be found in the larval stage from November through August. This species was found to produce 3 clutches in one study in Texas *11406*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is found in all types of freshwater habitats and even enters slightly brackish coastal marshes. They forage mostly on land. Insects are their primary prey item though they also feed on other arthropods and worms. This species will travel away from water when vegetation is available to provide shelter and shade. Breeding frogs typically congregate in large groups. Calling males are wary and difficult to approach. During development, larger tadpoles outcompete smaller individuals for food. However, as food levels decrease, chemical inhibition overrides exploitative competition *11407* *1014* *11406* *11284*.

ORIGIN: This species is native.

LIMITING FACTORS: This species needs grassy, marsh habitat to breed.


AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: This species is found in all types of freshwater habitats but more frequently is associated with ponds, ditches, swamps, and lake and stream margins. Individuals are sometimes found in coastal brackish marshes. This species may venture away from water when weeds and other vegetation are available to provide shelter and shade *11407* *1014* *11284*.

References for Life History

  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 11284 - Wilson, L.A., 1995, Land manager's guide to the amphibians and reptiles of the South, 360 pp. pgs., The Nature Conservancy, Southeastern Region, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 11406 - Duellman, William E. and, Trueb, Linda, 1986, Biology of Amphibians, 671 pgs., The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
  • 11407 - Conant, Roger and, Collins, John T., 1998, Peterson Field Guide: Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern/Central North America, 616 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Company;, Boston


*Click on a thumbnail for a larger version.

Verified County/City Occurrence

Accomack County
Amelia County
Amherst County
Bedford County
Botetourt County
Brunswick County
Campbell County
Caroline County
Charles City County
Charlotte County
Chesapeake City
Chesterfield County
Dinwiddie County
Essex County
Fairfax City
Fairfax County
Fluvanna County
Gloucester County
Greensville County
Halifax County
Hampton City
Hanover County
Henrico County
Isle of Wight County
James City County
King and Queen County
King William County
Lancaster County
Loudoun County
Louisa County
Mathews County
Mecklenburg County
Middlesex County
New Kent County
Newport News City
Northampton County
Nottoway County
Orange County
Petersburg City
Pittsylvania County
Poquoson City
Portsmouth City
Powhatan County
Prince Edward County
Prince George County
Prince William County
Richmond County
Southampton County
Stafford County
Suffolk City
Surry County
Sussex County
Virginia Beach City
Warren County
Westmoreland County
Williamsburg City
York County
Verified in 57 Counties/Cities.

Box Turtle Reporting

VHS Amazon Smile

Spadefoot Reporting