Crawfish frog behavioral differences in postburned and vegetated grasslands

Nathan J. Engbrecht, Michael J. Lannoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Amphibians are threatened globally and, with the increased emphasis on using prescribed fire as an important tool to manage ecosystems, it is essential to understand how amphibians respond when exposed to habitats managed by fire. Most studies have focused on survivorship and population-level effects; how survivors react to postburn landscapes has received less attention. Crawfish frogs (Lithobates areolatus Baird and Girard) are an obligate crayfish burrow-dwelling North American grassland species in steep decline. Individuals spend their nonbreeding season associated with a single crayfish-built burrow, which protects them from dangers, including fire. We compared activity patterns and behaviors of crawfish frogs occupying vegetated and postburned prairie grassland habitats. In total, 24 581 images representing six weeks of observations on eight crawfish frogs (four each in vegetated and postburn habitats) were analyzed. While the number of individuals followed was small, our dataset demonstrated interesting differences in activity patterns and behaviors. In particular, while frogs occupying postburn and vegetated habitats exhibited similar nocturnal behaviors, diurnal behaviors were different. In daylight, crawfish frogs in vegetated habitats spent more time on their feeding platform away from their burrow entrance, while frogs in postburn areas spent most of their time at or in their burrow entrance. Further, frogs in postburn areas first emerged later in the day than frogs in vegetated areas. We conclude that while crawfish frog adults occupying a postburn landscape exhibit different behaviors compared to animals in vegetation, prescribed burns have little effect on adult crawfish frog survivorship and few indirect effects on fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalFire Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 17 2012


  • Activity pattern
  • Crawfish frog
  • Critical thermal maximum
  • Fire effects
  • Grassland
  • Lithobates areolatus
  • Prescribed fire
  • Prey availability
  • Southwestern indiana

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Forestry

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