Human impacts on pig frog (Rana grylio) populations in south Florida wetlands: Harvest, water management and mercury contamination

Cristina A Ugarte, Florida International University


This study investigated how harvest and water management affected the ecology of the Pig Frog, Rana grylio. It also examined how mercury levels in leg muscle tissue vary spatially across the Everglades. Rana grylio is an intermediate link in the Everglades food web. Although common, this inconspicuous species can be affected by three forms of anthropogenic disturbance: harvest, water management and mercury contamination. This frog is harvested both commercially and recreationally for its legs, is aquatic and thus may be susceptible to water management practices, and can transfer mercury throughout the Everglades food web. This two-year study took place in three major regions: Everglades National Park (ENP), Water Conservation Areas 3A (A), and Water Conservation Area 3B (B). The study categorized the three sites by their relative harvest level and hydroperiod. During the spring of 2001, areas of the Everglades dried completely. On a regional and local scale Pig Frog abundance was highest in Site A, the longest hydroperiod, heavily harvested site, followed by ENP and B. More frogs were found along survey transects and in capture-recapture plots before the dry-down than after the dry-down in Sites ENP and B. Individual growth patterns were similar across all sites, suggesting differences in body size may be due to selective harvest. Frogs from Site A, the flooded and harvested site, had no differences in survival rates between adults and juveniles. Site B populations shifted from a juvenile to adult dominated population after the dry-down. Dry-downs appeared to affect survival rates more than harvest. Total mercury in frog leg tissue was highest in protected areas of Everglades National Park with a maximum concentration of 2.3 mg/kg wet mass where harvesting is prohibited. Similar spatial patterns in mercury levels were found among pig frogs and other wildlife throughout parts of the Everglades. Pig Frogs may be transferring substantial levels of mercury to other wildlife species in ENP. In summary, although it was found that abundance and survival were reduced by dry-down, lack of adult size classes in Site A, suggest harvest also plays a role in regulating population structure.

Subject Area

Ecology|Zoology|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Ugarte, Cristina A, "Human impacts on pig frog (Rana grylio) populations in south Florida wetlands: Harvest, water management and mercury contamination" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3128615.