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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog - Ascaphus montanus

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Global Rank: G4
State Rank: S4

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:
FWP Conservation Tier: 2


 

External Links





 
General Description
Adults are gray or brown with gray, brown, or occasionally yellow blotches; the skin has a distinctly bumpy texture. Adult body length is 1.5 to 2 inches. The outer tow of the hind foot is broader than the other toes. Tailed frogs have no external ear drum. The male has a bulbous "tail" that acts as a penis. Eggs and Tadpoles: Approximately 50 eggs are laid in rosary-like strings attached to the underside of rocks. The tadpole (up to 2 inches long) is unique in that it has a large mouth modified into a sucker; color is variable.

Diagnostic Characteristics
No other frog or toad has the outer toe of the hind foot broader than the other toes; all other frogs and toads have external ear drums.

General Distribution
Montana Range

Click the legend blocks above to view individual ranges.

Western Hemisphere Range

 


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 2443

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)



Migration
Non-migratory. Has no breeding migration (Daugherty 1982).

Habitat
Rocky Mountain Tailed Frogs are found in and along small, swift, cold mountain streams. Eggs are laid during late summer and take approximately 4 weeks to hatch. Tadpoles take 1 to 4 years to metamorphose, depending on water temperature. Sexual maturity in Montana is attained at 6 or 7 years of age (the latest of any North American amphibian). Forested streams. In Flathead area, larvae found only in streams with temp under 16 C. Prefer fast streams, less than 14 ft wide, with substrate of slabby-flat bottomed rocks with little aquatic vegetation (Franz and Lee 1970).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Larva feed almost exclusively on diatoms, though also pollen (Metter 1964, Franz 1970) Adults: opportunistic; forage at night in forest near streams. Prey on invertebrates, mainly terrestrial but also aquatic forms (Metter 1964, Bury 1970, Daugherty 1982).

Ecology
Low reproductive potential: reproductive maturity age 7 to 8; 2 yr cycle with first clutch at age 9 (Daugherty 1982). Extremely philopatric; probably very little gene flow between populations (Daugherty 1982).

Reproductive Characteristics
Mate August to September; sperm stored overwinter (Metter 1964). Ovipost late June to July; hatch August to September but remain in nest (under rocks in stream) until yolk is consumed, October to November or later. Metamorphose July to September of year 4 (ca. 60 days required) (Daugherty 1979). Development of eggs under natural conditions is discussed by Franz (1970).

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
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    • [NDTI] Northrop, Devine, and Tarbell Incorporated. 1994. Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids hydroelectric developments 1993 wildlife study. Northrop, Devine, and Tarbell Incorporated, Portland, ME. 197 p.
    • [USFWS] US Fish and Wildlife Service. 1994. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; animal candidate review for listing as endangered or threatened species. Federal Register 59(219): 58982-59028.
    • Adams, M.J. 1993. Summer nests of the tailed frog (Ascaphus truei) from the Oregon coast range. Northwestern Naturalist 74: 15-18.
    • Adams, S. 1998. Tailed frog migration: a local response to seasonally unsuitable habitat? Abstract. Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Meeting. Helena, MT. February 2-5, 1998.
    • Adams, S. and C.A. Frissell. 2001. Thermal habitat use and evidence of seasonal migration by Rocky Mountain tailed frogs, Ascaphus montanus, in Montana. Canadian Field Naturalist 115(2): 251-256.
    • Altig, R. 1969. Notes on the ontogeny of the osseous cranium of Ascaphus truei. Herpetelogica 25:59-62.
    • Altig, R., and E.E. Brodie. 1972. Laboratory behavior of Ascaphus truei tadpoles. Journal of Herpetology 6: 21-24.
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    • Black, J.H. and R. Timken. 1976. Endangered and threatened amphibians and reptiles in Montana. p 36–37. In R.E. Ashton, Jr. (chair). Endangered and threatened amphibians and reptiles in the United States. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular 5: 1-65.
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    • Bury, R.B., G.M. Fellers, and S.B. Ruth. 1969. First records of Plethodon dunni in California, and new distributional data on Ascaphus truei, Rhyacotriton olympicus, and Hydromantes shastae. Journal of Herpetology 3: 157-161.
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    • Claussen, D.L. 1973a. The thermal relations of the tailed frog (Ascaphus truei) and the Pacific treefrog (Hyla regilla). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 44a: 137-153.
    • Claussen, D.L. 1973b. The water relations of the tailed frog (Ascaphus truei) and the Pacific treefrog (Hyla regilla). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 44a: 155-171.
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    • Daugherty, C.H. 1979. Population ecology and genetics of Ascaphus truei: an examination of gene flow and natural selection. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Montana. Missoula, MT. 143 pp.
    • Daugherty, C.H. and A.L. Sheldon. 1982. Age specific movement patterns of the frog Ascaphus truei. Herpetologica 38(4):468-474.
    • Daugherty, C.H. and A.L. Sheldon. 1982a. Age-determination, growth, and life history of a Montana population of the tailed frog (Ascaphus truei). Herpetologica 38(4): 461-468.
    • Daugherty, C.H. and F.W. Allendorf. 1977a. Divergence of populations: preliminary evidence relating to the Ehrlich-Raven hypothesis from Ascaphus truei. Abstract. Annual Report Issue of the Genetics Society of America 86(2): S14.
    • Daugherty, C.H. and F.W. Allendorf. 1977b. The taxonomic value of genetic distance: data from two amphibians. Abstract. American Zoologist 17(4): 973.
    • Daugherty, C.H. and F.W. Allendorf. 1979. Temporal genetic stability in a population of the tailed frog, Ascaphus truei. Abstract. American Zoologist 19(3): 962.
    • Daugherty, C.H., L.N. Wishard, and L.B. Daugherty. 1978. Sexual dimorphism in an anuran response to severe thermal stress. Journal of Herpetology 12(3): 431-432.
    • De Vlaming, V.L., and R.B. Bury. 1970. Thermal selection in tadpoles of the tailed frog, Ascaphus truei. Journal of Herpetology 4: 179-189.
    • Diller, L.V. and R.L. Wallace. 1999. Distribution and habitat of Ascaphus truei in streams on managed, young growth forests in north coastal California. Journal of Herpetology 33(1): 71-79.
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    • Dupuis, L.A. and F.L.Bunnell. 1999. Status and distribution of the tailed frog in British Columbia. A report for Forest Renewal British Columbia, Victoria, British Columbia.
    • Dupuis, L.A. and P. Friele. 2004. River continuum concept and management efforts--The case of the tailed frog. Abstract. Northwestern Naturalist 85:73.
    • Dupuis, L.A., F.L.Bunnell,and P.A. Friele. 2000. Determinants of the tailed frog's range in British Columbia, Canada. Northwest Science 74(2): 109-115.
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    • Farmer, P. and S.B. Heath. 1987. Wildlife baseline inventory, Rock Creek study area, Sanders County, Montana. Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. Helena, MT.
    • Feminella, J.W. and C.P. Hawkins. 1994. Tailed frog tadpoles differentially alter their feeding behavior in response to non-visual cues from four predators. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 13: 310-320.
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    • Franz, R. 1970b. Food of larval tailed frogs. Bulletin of the Maryland Herpetological Society 6: 49-51.
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    • Franz, R. and D.S. Lee. 1970. The ecological and biogeographical distribution of the tailed frog, Ascaphus truei, in the Flathead River drainage of northwestern Montana. Bulletin of the Maryland Herpetological Society 6: 62-73.
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Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog — Ascaphus montanus.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on October 1, 2014, from http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=AAABA01020
 
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