Reproductive characteristics of American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) in their invasive range of the Pacific Northwest, USA.
Invasive species pose a major threat to global biodiversity. The effects of invasive species can be strongly influenced and potentially mediated by their reproductive characteristics, such as fecundity, egg production, and duration and number of reproductive events. Selection for smaller body size at first reproduction can also play a role in their establishment, facilitating colonization and spread. The American bullfrog, native to the eastern U.S. (Lithobates catesbeianus), is a species that has invaded more than 40 countries across 4 continents. This species has become especially prevalent in the western United States since its introduction in the early 1900s. This study characterized reproductive characteristics of bullfrogs with emphasis on the minimum size at which males and females reach sexual maturity in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA invasion range. We collected and dissected 121 individuals in 2013 and 2017, quantifying characteristics of sexual maturity including snout-vent length, total length, sex, tympanum diameter, presence of distended oviducts or eggs for females, and testes length and sperm activity in males. Our results showed that the minimum reproductive size of both males and females was smaller relative to bullfrogs in their native range as well as in populations across their invasive range. Reduction in size at reproductive maturity is likely impacting the invasive success of American bullfrogs and this study gives us insight on management actions to control the invasion. Applying this insight, managers can adjust their definition of reproductively active adults, increasing the target population of culling and other control methods.