Stop 8: Tinaja Species

Close-up of frog
Lowland leopard frog. Photo by Dennis Caldwell

Lowland Leopard Frog

The lowland leopard frog (Rana yavapaiensis) is a native frog that depends on desert waters. It has declined in the Desert Southwest and is considered a species of special conservation concern. In the Sonoran Desert, lowland leopard frogs live in places with permanent water, such as canyon pools and streams. They breed year-round, and tadpoles take a year or more to reach adulthood. This small frog (1.8–3.4 in) is tan, brown, and light green to bright green. It typically has large dark spots on its back but no spots on the head in front of the eyes. Its underside is yellowish. Adults eat mostly insects and other invertebrates. Tadpoles feed on algae and other plant tissue.

Lowland leopard frogs are an indicator species of ecosystem health, and measures to protect them will benefit the many other animals that rely on desert water sources. It is illegal to collect lowland leopard frogs in Arizona without a permit for scientific collection or similar purpose.

Conservation status: Species of Concern

Threats: Introduction of non-native frogs and fishes (in particular predatory fish, crayfish, and American bullfrogs), habitat alteration, population isolation, toxicants, disease, parasites

Two small fish, one bright blue
Rio Sonoyta pupfish. Males defend their 1–2 square yards of territory by turning bright, iridescent blue. Photo by Dennis Caldwell

Rio Sonoyta Pupfish
(aka Quitobaquito Pupfish)

Rio Sonoyta pupfish and Quitobaquito pupfish are two subpopulations of the endangered species, Cyprinodon eremus. Once ranging from northern Mexico to the lower Colorado River in Arizona and even into California, these fish are now found naturally in only two water bodies: Rio Sonoyta, in Sonora, and Quitobaquito Springs, in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The fish at the DRLC originated in Rio Sonoyta.

These fish are small (1.5–2 inches long) but resilient, capable of withstanding temperatures up to 113°F, low dissolved oxygen content, and waters twice as salty as the sea. Rio Sonoyta pupfish are omnivorous. They feed on small invertebrates (such as mosquito larvae), aquatic plants, and algae. When defending their territory and seeking to mate, the males change color, becoming a vibrant blue. Their lifespan is around two years.

Conservation status: Endangered

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, groundwater pumping, pesticides, exotic invasive species


1234567 │ 8 │ 910111213

Last updated: April 22, 2022