Short Communication

Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1379-1385

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Resurrecting an extinct species: archival DNA, taxonomy, and conservation of the Vegas Valley leopard frog

  • Evon R. HekkalaAffiliated withFordham UniversityDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University Email author 
  • , Raymond A. SaumureAffiliated withResearch Division, Las Vegas Springs Preserve
  • , Jef R. JaegerAffiliated withSchool of Life Sciences and Public Lands Institute, University of Nevada
  • , Hans-Werner HerrmannAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment and Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (USGS), University of ArizonaHuman Origins Genotyping Laboratory, Arizona Research Laboratories of Arizona
  • , Michael J. SredlAffiliated withArizona Game and Fish Department, Nongame Branch
  • , David F. BradfordAffiliated withUS Environmental Protection Agency, National Exposure Research Lab
  • , Danielle DrabeckAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University
  • , Michael J. BlumAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University


Suggestions that the extinct Vegas Valley leopard frog (Rana fisheri = Lithobates fisheri) may have been synonymous with one of several declining species have complicated recovery planning for imperiled leopard frogs in southwestern United States. To address this concern, we reconstructed the phylogenetic position of R. fisheri from mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data obtained from century-old museum specimens. Analyses incorporating representative North American Rana species placed archival specimens within the clade comprising federally Threatened Chiricahua leopard frogs (Rana chiricahuensis = Lithobates chiricahuensis). Further analysis of Chiricahua leopard frogs recovered two diagnosable lineages. One lineage is composed of R. fisheri specimens and R. chiricahuensis near the Mogollon Rim in central Arizona, while the other encompasses R. chiricahuensis populations to the south and east. These findings ascribe R. chiricahuensis populations from the northwestern most portion of its range to a resurrected R. fisheri, demonstrating how phylogenetic placement of archival specimens can inform recovery and conservation plans, especially those that call for translocation, re-introduction, or population augmentation of imperiled species.


Archival DNA Museum specimens Rana fisheri Rana chiricahuensis Taxonomy Conservation genetics