Wood Frog
Lithobates sylvaticus

Common Name:

Wood Frog

Scientific Name:

Lithobates sylvaticus



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


sylvaticus is Latin meaning "amidst the trees"

Average Length:

1.4 - 2.8 in. (3.5 - 7 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

3.3 in. (8.3 cm)

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This species ranges in length from 35-83 mm (1.5-3.25 in). It has a distinctive dark "mask" extending back from the eye. Dorsal coloration varies from nearly pink to shades of brown to nearly black. Females are typically more brightly colored and larger than the males. The venter of both sexes is white with a dark marking on both sides of the chest. Dorsolateral folds are prominent. The tadpole ranges in size from 42-48 mm and has no distinct markings on the body. The tail fin is rounded dorsally, tapers to a point and may be faintly patterned. The intestinal coil is partially visible. The oral disc is emarginated and has large papillae. The labial tooth ratio is 3/4 *1014* *11407*.

REPRODUCTION: This species is often described as an explosive, short-term breeder. In this region, breeding often takes place over just a few days in February or March. The breeding cue is typically temperature with males sometimes heard calling when ponds are still iced over. Male breeding call is a raspy clacking sound similar to the quacking of a duck. Breeding adults gather in large numbers. Females lay globular masses of eggs often closely aggregated and attached to submerged plants or other objects in shallow pools. Mean clutch size is 1750 eggs. Adults do not attend the nest. In one study, egg and larval survival was found to be around 4%. The egg mass retains heat, and those eggs located near the center of the mass have a higher survival rate. Research in Maryland found that populations found at lower elevations became sexually mature earlier than did populations at higher elevations. So, in the lowlands, frogs reach sexual maturity at 1-2 years. In the uplands, sexual maturity was reached at 3-4 years. They also found that most females bred once following 2 to 4 years of growth and laid a single clutch of 2500 eggs. Males prefer larger females. Because of its short term breeding strategy, variance in male mating success is low. This species prefers ponds, slow portions of streams and ditches for breeding. *11284* *11407* *11406* *1014*

BEHAVIOR: This species is adapted to the cold and ranges farther north than any other North American amphibian or reptile. It appears very early in the year, and males are often heard calling before ice-out on the ponds. This species is described as an explosive breeder with all eggs laid in the course of very few days. Breeding adults gather in large numbers. Following breeding, there is no attendance of the nest. Apart from the breeding period, individuals are typically found in or near moist woods often far from open water. They hibernate under detritus or logs in wooded ravines. This frog feeds primarily on insects, especially beetles and flies *11407* *11406* *1014* *11284*.

ORIGIN: Native.

LIMITING FACTORS: During the late winter months, this species needs moist woods with standing water *11284*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: Studies have found a survival rate of 4% for eggs and larvae and a survival rate of 30.8% for young adult females. Females typically reproduce only once following 3-4 years of growth *11406*. Due to the nature of the breeding period, there is a short period in early summer when the recruitment of young is high *11406*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: In Virginia, this species is found in the mountains and in scattered locations across the Piedmont and northern Coastal Plain. It is typically found in or near moist woods frequently far from open water. Breeding occurs in shallow ponds or pools. This species hibernates under leaves or logs in wooded ravines *11407* *1014* *11284*.

References for Life History

  • 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
  • 11332 - Mitchell, Joseph C. and Karen K. Reay, 1999, Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Virginia, Num. 1, 122 pgs., Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, VA
  • 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


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