Lesson Plan Part 2: Name That Frog!

This lesson was developed by Dr. Ray Pierotti, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas.

You can find additional resources for this lesson by clicking on these links:

Name That Frog! on student website

Sing Like A Frog on student website

Amphibian and Reptile species on Friends of the Kaw's Critter Corner website


Overview: Presentation to students. Students will learn about basic biological taxonomy. By using the widely distributed Leopard Frog species complex as an example, students will gain an understanding of what differentiates species within a genus, how species are named, and what the difference is between a scientific name and a common name.
    
Grades:  5-7 and 8-12

Kansas State Standards can be downloaded in Word format from our school standards Google Documents page.
 
Objective:  

  • Students will understand that scientists have a classification scheme for naming species and grouping species into genera.
  • Students will recognize the difference between species of frogs and toads that occur in the Kansas River corridor.
  • Students will learn about characteristics, such as mating calls, that scientists use to identify new species.


Materials: YouTube videos of different species of Leopard Frogs calling on the Sing Like a Frog webpage, images of the different species of frogs and toads on the Name That Frog! webpage. The online article in the New York Times describes how the new species of Leopard Frog was discovered and can be used as the basis for a naming contest. There is a PowerPoint in the attachment section at the bottom of the page that can be used to guide students through the process of naming a new species. Students can use a free English to Latin conversion dictionary to suggest Latinate names for the new frog http://www.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/lookdown.pl

Method: Students will compare the mating calls of closely related species of Leopard Frogs (Southern Leopard Frog, Lithobates sphenocephalus; Northern Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens; and Plains Leopard Frog, Lithobates blairi) in the Sing Like a Frog lesson. They will then discuss why mating calls are particularly good characteristics to distinguish between different species.

Using the article in the New York Times that describes how scientists recently discovered a new species of Leopard Frog is an excellent example of science in action. In particular, the new species has been identified because it has a distinctly different mating call. Have students read the article in the New York Times and create a "name that frog" contest of their own. Here is some basic information about the frog from the New York Times "Name that frog" contest:

  • Geographic center of range is Yankee Stadium
  • First noticed in New York City (Staten Island)
  • Also found in the Great Swamp in New Jersey, Orange and Putnam Counties in New York, and central Connecticut
  • Resembles the southern leopard frog
  • Mating call a single cluck rather than a repetitive chuckle
Students should be able to suggest possible common names related to the location or other characteristics discussed in the article. Have students suggest possible information that would go into developing a scientific name. Students should name the Genus as Lithobates and identify the Plains Leopard Frog as the most closely related species in the Kansas River corridor. They should also be able to say that the name of the scientist who described the new species and the date will be listed along with the frog's scientific name. All of these points will show that the students understand the basics of scientific taxonomy. You can have the students present their name to the class and decide which best suits the new species.

Have students look at the frogs and toads of the Kansas River corridor on the Name That Frog! webpage and suggest ways in which they are similar or different looking. Using the PowerPoint slide in the attachment section at the bottom of the page have students drag and drop the pictures next to the common and scientific names of each species. The Kansas Herp Atlas has species descriptions and audio files of the mating calls of each species.

Here is a breakdown of how three of the common Leopard Frogs in our region were named. You can find translations of the scientific names of reptiles and amphibians at
http://ebeltz.net/herps/etymain.html if you wish to expand this lesson.


Plains Leopard Frog, Lithobates blairi (Mecham, Littlejohn, Oldham, Brown & Brown, 1973)

Genus: Lithobates is Greek, Litho means "A stone", bates means "One that walks or haunts"
Species: blairi "...in honor of W. Frank Blair because of his early suggestion that there were cryptic `Rana pipiens' species in the southwestern United States (a suggestion which lead directly to the discovery of R. blairi in Texas in 1963), and more generally in recognition of his contributions to our knowledge of the systematics and evolutionary biology of anurans." source

Southern Leopard Frog, Lithobates sphenocephalus

Genus: Lithobates is Greek, Litho means "A stone", bates means "One that walks or haunts"
Species: sphenocephalus is Greek meaning "wedge headed" source

Northern Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens (Schreber, 1782)

Genus: Lithobates is Greek, Litho  means "A stone," bates means "One that walks or haunts"
Species: pipiens is Latin  meaning "peeping" because the collector heard Spring Peepers, collected this species thinking that the loud whistle came from the larger frog (mistakes sometimes lead to odd names) source

Instructor will: Present in a lecture format an explanation of the basic principals of biological taxonomy. The instructor will then use this information to lead a discussion on the common and scientific names of Kansas River frogs and toads to demonstrate the usefulness of scientific names for identifying closely related species and the difficulties of relying on common names for taxonomic purposes.

Students will: Demonstrate an understanding of basic biological taxonomy by correctly identifying problems with using common names (for example, the Plains Spadefoot and Plains Leopard Frogs are not closely related, but the Plains Leopard Frog and the Bullfrog are more closely related). Students will also be able to understand the process of how new species are named.

Evaluation: The PowerPoint slide in the attachment section at the bottom of the page can be used to evaluate whether students are able to correctly identify species of frogs and toads found in the Kansas River corridor. Using a contest format for naming a new species, students can be evaluated as to whether they are able to describe characteristics that can be used to distinguish between species, and understand the process by which species are named.

Lecture

After going through the material in the taxonomy slideshow below, use the Kansas River Frogs and Toads slideshow to discuss whether scientific names or common names are better for identifying closely related species. You can also use the YouTubes in the Sing Like A Frog lesson to compare the mating calls of different species of Leopard Frogs (differences in mating calls were used to identify the new species in New York City).






References

The Kansas Herp Atlas has species descriptions and audio files of the mating calls of each species of frog and toad in the state of Kansas

http://webcat.fhsu.edu/ksfauna/herps/index.asp?page=species

Translations of species names of Lithobates are from

http://ebeltz.net/herps/etymain.html#FrogsandToads

Classification of Plains Leopard Frog (this website is very helpful for providing information about classification and biology of many species)

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/classification/Lithobates_blairi.html

New species of Leopard Frog in New York City

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1055790312000383

Students can use a free English to Latin conversion dictionary to suggest Latinate names for the new frog

http://www.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/lookdown.pl

How do you pronounce scientific names:

http://www.scientificlatin.org/botnamesay.html

How to construct a scientific name in Latin

http://www.scientificlatin.org/botnamemean.html

What's the difference between a frog and a toad?

http://kids.sandiegozoo.org/fantastic_frogs

Č
ć
ď
Dr. Cynthia Annett,
Mar 21, 2012, 8:01 PM
ć
ď
Dr. Cynthia Annett,
Mar 22, 2012, 10:13 AM