Caucasian parsley frog
(Pelodytes caucasicus)
As old as many dinosaurs, the parsley frog lineage diverged from the spadefoot and Asian toads around the time that the first bird appeared.  Found in the mountain forests of Caucasia, they have distinctive markings and change colour in the breeding season.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Caucasian Isthmus.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Anura
Family: Pelodytidae
The family Pelodytidae consists of just three living parsley frog species, so called because they are speckled with green as if garnished with parsley.  It is an extremely ancient group; the oldest Pelodytes fossils may be up to 50 million years old.  The lineage is thought to have diverged from its closest relatives, the Pelobatidae (spadefoot toads) and the Megophryidae (Asian toads) around 140-150 million years ago, at the end of the Jurassic to Early Cretaceous period.  This was around the time that Archaeopteryx (the first known bird) appeared, when the continents still formed one giant land mass and Britain was home to a plethora of dinosaur species.  The three species of parsley frog are therefore the sole representatives of up to 150 million years worth of evolution.
Caucasian parsley frogs are olive to grey-brown, with darker spots of colour and a grey belly.  Warts are arranged in regular patterns on the back, and some also have red spots.  Females are lighter in colour than males, and have a reddish tinge.  This species is small (around 5cm/ 2in in length), and has a pointed snout and a slightly forked, semicircular tongue.  There is usually a cross shaped mark on the centre of the back, which disappears in the breeding season when these frogs become darker in colour. 
Both adults and tadpoles hibernate to survive the harsh Caucasian winter.  They usually awake and become active again in March, and breed from May onwards throughout the summer.  Males spend their days hiding in holes or under tree roots near water during this time.  They enter deep breeding pools at dusk and call to attract females throughout the evening and first half of the night.  They develop horny ‘nuptial pads’ on the undersides of their chin, belly and forearms to aid them in holding on to the slippery female, which will lay between 80 and 750 eggs in small mucous sacs.  Tadpoles can metamorphose into froglets after 2 to 3 months, but may hibernate over one winter or even two before embarking on the change into adulthood.  Sexual maturity is reached after two or three years, and individuals may survive to reach 9 years of age in the wild.
The Caucasian parsley frog inhabits broad leaved, mixed mountain forest and prefers the shaded and cool conditions of dense vegetation such as bushes and grasses.  It may be found within 300m of ponds and streams with cold, clear, slow-flowing water.  Adults conceal themselves under stones or other cover in shady, damp areas.
Pelodytes caucasicus is found in the mountain forests of the Caucasian Isthmus, from 2,300 metres in elevation down to sea level.  It is native to southwestern Russia (Krasnodar Region, Adygea, possibly North Ossetia and Chechnya), Georgia, extreme northern Azerbaijan, northeastern Turkey and possibly western Armenia.
Population Estimate
Figures are not available for estimation of the total population.  It is said to be more numerous in North Caucasus than in Transcaucasia.
Population Trend
Decreasing.  Declines have been reported in the former Soviet Union.
The IUCN has listed this species under the Least Concern category, in view of its wide distribution and presumed large population.
The reasons for the local declines of this species are not currently known, although it is thought that loss and pollution of habitats through pesticide use, mineral fertilisers and cattle farming are factors.
Conservation Underway
The Caucasian parsley frog is known to inhabit protected areas within Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and is listed in the Red Data Books of these countries.
AmphibiaWeb           http://amphibiaweb.org/

Global Amphibian Assessment       http://www.iucnredlist.org/amphibians

Tree of Life Web Project      http://tolweb.org/tree/
Amphibiaweb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation [web application]. 2009. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: http://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed: Feb 27, 2009.)

Cannatella, D. 1995. Pelodytidae. Parsley Frogs. Version 01 January 1995 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Pelodytidae/16980/1995.01.01 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/.

Danzig, E. M. 1993. Fauna of Russia and neighbouring countries. Nauka, St. Petersburg.

Frost, D. R. 2009. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 5.3 (12 February 2009). Electronic Database accessible at: http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/. American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA.

Kuzmin, S., Tarkhnishvili, D., Tuniyev, B., Papenfuss, T., Sparreboom, M., Ugurtas, I., Anderson, S., Eken, G., Kiliç, T. and Gem, E. 2004. Pelodytes caucasicus. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 17 February 2009.

Paillette, M., Oliveira, M. E., Rosa, H. D., Crespo, E. G. 1992. Is there a dialect in Pelodytes punctatus from southern Portugal? Amphibia-Reptilia 13: 97-108.

Roelants, K., Gower, D. J., Wilkinson, M., Loader, S. P., Biju, S. D., Guillaume, K., Moriau, L. and Bossuyt, F. 2007. Global patterns of diversification in the history of modern amphibians. PNAS 104(3): 887-892.

Distribution dataset:  IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org

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