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Keywords

Phalangeal Skeletochronology, Age Estimation, Northern Crawfish Frog

Abstract

As an obligate crayfish burrow dweller, crawfish frogs have historically occupied a relatively narrow ecological niche throughout their distribution in the tall grass prairies and grasslands of the central and south-central United States. In Arkansas, the Northern Crawfish Frog, Lithobates areolatus circulosus, occurs in only 19 of its 75 counties. Because of their secretive nature, late winter-early spring breeding season, and current protected status by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, this species remains a rarity in most museum collections in the state. Moreover, only anecdotal information exits regarding any aspect of their natural history in Arkansas. In the present study, we chose to conduct a phalangeal skeletochronological investigation using museum specimens (n = 9) deposited in the herpetological collection housed in the Arkansas Center for Biodiversity Collections located at Arkansas State University. Our results were mostly similar to the age-body length distributions from southern Illinois. Our oldest males exhibited 4 lines of arrested growth (LAGs), and this estimated age matched well with the body sizes of 4-year-old males found in Illinois. Two of our 3-year-old males had slightly larger body sizes compared to the Illinois sample. Our oldest female was 5 years old. Her body size was comparable to values found for 5-year-old females in Illinois. Also, 5 years was the maximum age recorded for this species in our study as well as for the frog in Illinois. Nine years has been reported as the maximum lifespan for this species.

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