Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arizona
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Arizona Project

Conservation Genetics and Population Structure of Chiricahua Leopard Frogs (Rana chiricahuensis) in New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico

January 2006 - December 2017


Participating Agencies

  • Arizona Game & Fish Dept.

Goal: This study will examine genetic relationships among populations, metapopulations, and Recovery Units (RU), as defined by the Draft Recovery Plan (2005), that can be used to guide Chiricahua leopard frog recovery efforts. The Chiricahua leopard frog, Rana chiricahuensis, occurs at elevations of 3,281 to 8,890 feet in central and southeastern Arizona; west-central and southwestern New Mexico; and the sky islands and Sierra Madre Occidental of northeastern Sonora and northwestern Chihuahua, Mexico (Draft Recovery Plan 2005). There may have been a historical metapopulation relationship between montane and valley floor populations, with the intervening bajadas being only sparsely or temporarily occupied. Chiricahua leopard frog populations have declined precipitously throughout Arizona and New Mexico. Since the species was listed as threatened in 2002 data suggests that the decrease in numbers is due primarily to drought and chytridiomycosis (believed to be a fungal skin disease), the number of likely extant populations has declined by 27-33% in the last 4 years. Molecular genetic analyses will be conducted using microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA markers to quantify genetic relationships among populations, metapopulations, and RUs. This information will help determine whether northern and southern populations are distinct species, and direct the appropriateness of moving frogs among populations, metapopulations, and RUs. This work will estimate genetic diversity within and among populations and metapopulations, and the need for augmentation of individuals into declining populations. Results will also be used for future population viability analysis.