Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp 1607–1626 | Cite as

Neglected native or undesirable alien? Resolution of a conservation dilemma concerning the pool frog Rana lessonae

  • Trevor J. C. Beebee
  • John Buckley
  • Ivor Evans
  • Jim P. FosterEmail author
  • Antony H. Gent
  • Chris P. Gleed-Owen
  • Geoffrey Kelly
  • Graham Rowe
  • Charles Snell
  • Julia T. Wycherley
  • Inga Zeisset


Introduced species often pose serious threats to biodiversity, but occasionally confusion arises as to whether a species really is introduced or is in fact an overlooked native. A recent UK conservation dilemma has centred on the status of the pool frog Rana lessonae. This species has been the subject of documented introductions from central and southern Europe since the early 1800s, the accepted position being that all UK R. lessonae populations are descended from these introductions. However, a closer examination of early UK literature sources, and recent discoveries of isolated, native R. lessonae populations in Sweden and Norway, led some herpetologists to question whether the species was in fact present as a native at some locations prior to the introductions. Research was initiated along four major lines of enquiry: genetic, bioacoustic, archaeozoological and archival. A high degree of convergence among the genetic and bioacoustic investigations demonstrated that the potentially native UK pool frogs were closely related to Scandinavian frogs, thus ruling out introductions from further south as a potential origin. Subfossil evidence of pool frogs was found from ca. 1000 years before present, demonstrating that the species occurred in the UK prior to known introductions. Archival sources produced no historical support for introductions from northern Europe. The postglacial history inferred for these northern populations is consistent with the known climatic and geographical conditions. Taken together, the evidence for the native status of the pool frog is compelling, and furthermore the UK population appears to be part of a distinct northern clade.


Archaeozoology Bioacoustic analysis Introduced species Literature Microsatellites Native species Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA Ranidae 



before present


Late Glacial Maximum


mitochondrial DNA


Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Bailon, S. 1993Quelques exemples de la consommation dȁ9amphibiens à travers le tempsDesse, J.Audoin-Rouzeau, F. eds. Exploitation des animaux sauvages à travers le temps. Actes de la XIIIe rencontres internationales dȁ9archéologie et dȁ9histoireEditions APDCAAntibes, France319326Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Banks, B., Foster, J., Langton, T., Morgan, K. 2000British Bullfrogs?British Wildlife11327330Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Beebee, T.J.C. 1996Ecology and Conservation of AmphibiansChapman & HallLondonGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Beebee T.J.C. and Buckley J. 2001. Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita) Site Register for the UK 1970–1999 inclusive. Unpublished report by University of Sussex and The Herpetological Conservation Trust.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bell, T. 1859The edible frog, long native of Foulmire FenZoologist176565Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Berger, L. 1973Systematics and hybridisation in European green frogs of Rana esculenta complexJournal of Herpetology7110Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bilton, D.T. 1992Genetic population structure of the postglacial relict diving beetle Hydroporus glabriusculus Aubé (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae)Heredity69503511Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bilton, D.T. 1994Phylogeography and recent historical biogeography of Hydroporus glabriusculus Aubé (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) in the British Isles and ScandinaviaBiological Journal of the Linnean Society51293307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Björk, S., Walker, M.J., Cwynar, L.C., Johnsen, S., Knudsen, K.-L., Lowe, J.J., Wohlfarth, B., INTIMATE, members. 1998An event stratigraphy for the last termination in the North Atlantic region based on the Greenland ice-core record: a proposal by the INTIMATE groupJournal of Quaternary Science13283292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Böhme, G. 1977Zur bestimmung quartarer Anuren Europas an Hand von SkelletelementenWissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin, Mathematik-Naturwissenschaft26283300Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Böhme, G., Günther, R. 1979Osteological studies in the European water frogs Rana ridibundaRana lessonaeRana ȁ8esculentaȁ9 (AnuraRanidae). MittZool. Mus. Berlin55203215Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bond, F. 1844aNotes on the occurrence of the edible frog in CambridgeshireZoologist2393Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bond, F. 1844bNote on the edible frogZoologist2677Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Boulenger, G.A. 1884aNotes on the edible frog in EnglandProceedings of the Zoological Society London1884573576Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Boulenger, G.A. 1884bOn the origin of the edible frog in EnglandZoologist8265269Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Boulenger, G.A. 1897The Tail-less Batrachians of EuropeThe Ray SocietyLondonGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Buckley, J. 1986Water frogs in NorfolkTrans. Norfolk Norwich Nat. Soc.27199211Google Scholar
  18. 17a.
    Cavalli-Sforza, L.L., Edwards, A.W.F. 1967Phylogenetic analysis: models and estimation proceduresEvolution32550570Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Dolmen, D. 1996Damfrosk, Rana lessonae Cameranooppdaget I NorgeFauna49178180Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    Dutt, W.A. 1906Wild Life in East AngliaMethuen and Co.LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. 20.
    English Nature 1998. UK Biodiversity Group, Tranche 2 Action Plans, Vol. 1 (Vertebrates and Vascular Plants). English NaturePeterboroughUK.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Forselius, S. 1962Distribution and reproductive behaviour of Rana esculenta L. in the coastal area of NUpplandC. Sweden. Zool. Bidrag Uppsala35517528Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gadow, H. 1904Reptilia and amphibia in CambridgeshireMarr, J.E.Shipley, A.E. eds. Handbook to the Natural History of CambridgeshireCambridge University PressCambridgeUKGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Garner, T.W.J., Gautschi, B., Rothlisberger, S., Reyer, H.-V. 2000A set of CA repeat microsatellite markers derived from the pool frog, Rana lessonaeMolecular Ecology921732175PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Gillett, L. 1988Beam Brook aquatic nurseries: an updateBritish Herpetological Society Bulletin2631Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Gleed-Owen C.P. 1999. Archaeozoological Investigations into the Possible Native Status of the Pool Frog Rana lessonae) in England: Final Report. Unpublished report for English Nature, Peterborough, UK.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Gleed-Owen C, P. 2000Subfossil records of Rana cf. lessonaeRana arvalisRana cf. dalmatina from Middle Saxon (c. 600–950 AD) deposits in eastern England: evidence for native statusAmphibia–Reptilia215765Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Gleed-Owen, C.P. 2001Further Archaeozoological Work for the Pool Frog Species Recovery ProgrammeUnpublished report for English NaturePeterboroughUKGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Graf, J.E., Polls Pelaz, M. 1989Evolutionary genetics of the Rana esculenta complexDawley, R.M.Bogart, J.P. eds. Evolution and Ecology of Unisexual VertebratesNew York State MuseumNew York289125Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Hasegawa, Y., Ueda, H., Sumida, M. 1999Clinal geographic variation in the advertisement call of the Wrinkled frog, Rana rugosaHerpetologica55318324Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Haftorn, S., Hailman, J. 1997Do the Siberian tits Parus cinctus in Scandinavia and Siberia speak the same language?Bioacoustics9223247Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Hewitt, G.M. 1999Post-glacial recolonisation of European biotaBiol. J. Linn. Soc.6887112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Isberg, O. 1929Das ehemalige Vorkommen der Sumpfschildkröte (Emys orbicularis L.) in Schweden und damit zusammenhangende klimatische ErscheinungenArchiv für Zoologi21 152Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Jehle, R., Arntzen, J.W. 2002Review: microsatellite markers in amphibian concervation geneticsHerpetological Journal1219Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Kaya, U., Simmons, A.M. 1999Advertisement calls of the tree frogs, Hyla arboreaHyla savignyi (Anura: Hylidae) in TurkeyBioacoustics10175190Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Kelly, G. 2004Literature/archive Search for Information Relating to Pool frogs in East Anglia. English Nature Research Report 480English NaturePeterboroughUKGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Kingsley C. 1867. Professor Kingsley’s Lecture on the Fens. Cambridge Chronicle, 9th March 1867.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Lambeck, K. 1995Late Devensian and Holocene shorelines of the British Isles and North Sea from models of glacio-hydro-isostatic reboundJournal of the Geological Society152437448Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Lowe, J.J., Birks, H.H., Brooks, S.J., Coope, G.R., Harkness, D.D., Mayle, F.E., Sheldrick, C., Turney, C.S.M., Walker, M.J.C. 1999The chronology of palaeoenvironmental changes during the Last Glacial-Holocene transition: towards and event stratigraphy for the British IslesJournal of the Geological Society London156397410Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Manchester, S. J., Bullock, J.M. 2000The impacts of non-native species on UK biodiversity and the effectiveness of controlJournal of the Applied Ecology37845864CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Newton, A. 1859Naturalisation of the edible frog (Rana esculenta L.) in EnglandZoologist1765386540Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Pelletier, W.R. 1998Postglacial variations in the level of the sea: implications for climate dynamics and solid-earth geophysicsReviews of Geophysics36603689CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Pennant, T. 1776British ZoologyBenjamin WhiteLondonGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Pritchard, J.K., Stephens, M., Donnelly, P. 2000Inference of population structure using multilocus genotype dataGenetics14719431957Google Scholar
  45. 44a.
    Saitou, N., Nei, M. 1987The neighbor-joining method: a new method for reconstructing phylogenetic treesMolecular Biology and Evolution4406425PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. 45.
    Schneider, H., Haxhiu, I. 1994Mating-call analysis of the Water Frogs in Albania (Anura: Ranidae)Zoologische Jahrbucher Systematik121248262Google Scholar
  47. 46.
    Schoener, T.W., Spiller, D.A. 1996Devastation of prey diversity by experimentally introduced predators in the fieldNature381691694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 47.
    Sinsch, U., Schneider, H. 1996Bioacoustic assessment of the taxonomic status of pool frog populations (Rana lessonae) with reference to a topotypical populationJournal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research346373Google Scholar
  49. 48.
    Sjögren, P. 1991Genetic variation in relation to demography of peripheral pool frog populations (Rana lessonae)Evolutionary Ecology5248271Google Scholar
  50. 49.
    Smith M. 1951. The British Amphibians and Reptiles. New Naturalist series no. 20., Collins, London.Google Scholar
  51. 50.
    Snell, C. 1994The pool frog: a neglected native?British Wildlife514Google Scholar
  52. 51.
    Stuart, A.J. 1979Pleistocene occurrences of the European pond tortoise (Emys orbicularis L.) in BritainBoreas8359371Google Scholar
  53. 52.
    Sumida, M., Kaneda, H., Kato, Y., Kanamori, Y., Yonekawa, H., Nishioka, M. 2000Sequence variation and structural conservation in the D-loop region and flanking genes of mitochondrial DNA from Japanese pond frogsGenes Genetical Systematics757992CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 53.
    Szymura, J.M. 1998Origin of the yellow-bellied toad population, Bombina variegatafrom Göritzhain in SaxonyHerpetological Journal8201205Google Scholar
  55. 54.
    Tanaka, T., Matsui, M., Takenaka, O. 1996Phylogenetic relationships of Japanese brown frogs (Rana: Ranidae) assessed by mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequencesBiochemical Systematics and Ecology24299307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 55.
    Terhune, J., Healey, S., Burton, H. 2001Easily measured call attributes can detect vocal differences between Weddell Seals from two areasBioacoustics11211222Google Scholar
  57. 56.
    Usher, M.B. 1999Nativeness or Non-nativeness of SpeciesScottish Natural HeritageEdinburghUKInformation and advisory note No. 112.Google Scholar
  58. 57.
    Webb, D.A. 1985What are the criteria for presuming native status?Watsonia15231236Google Scholar
  59. 58.
    Williams, P., Biggs, J., Whitfield, M., Thorne, A., Bryant, S., Fox, G., Nicolet, P. 2000The Pond Book: A Guide to the Management and Creation of PondsPonds Conservation TrustOxfordUKGoogle Scholar
  60. 59.
    Wolley, J. 1847Is the edible frog a true native of Britain?Zoologist518211822Google Scholar
  61. 60.
    Wycherley J. 2000. Bioacoustical investigation into the status of the pool frog (Rana lessonae) in Norfolk: Final report. Unpublished report to English Nature.Google Scholar
  62. 61.
    Wycherley, J., Doran, S., Beebee, T.J.C. 2001Regional accents in the Pool frog? Development of new computer analytical techniques aids bioacoustic separation of Pool frog populations and may elucidate the status of Norfolk Pool frogsMitteilungen aus dem Museum fur Naturkunde in Berlin, Zoologische Reiche772530Google Scholar
  63. 62.
    Wycherley, J., Doran, S., Beebee, T.J.C. 2003Tracing aliens: Identification of introduced water frogs in Britain by male advertisement call characteristicsHerpetological Journal134350Google Scholar
  64. 63.
    Wycherley, J., Doran, S., Beebee, T.J.C. 2002aMale advertisement call characters as phylogeographical indicators in European water frogsBiological Journal of Linnean Society77355365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 64.
    Wycherley, J., Doran, S., Beebee, T.J.C. 2002bFrog calls echo microsatellite phylogeography in the European pool frog Rana lessonaeJournal of Zoology London258479484Google Scholar
  66. 65.
    Zeisset, I., Beebee, T.J.C. 2001Determination of biogeographical range: an application of molecular phylogeography to the European pool frog Rana lessonaeProceeding of the Royal Society B268933938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 66.
    Zeisset, I., Rowe, G., Beebee, T.J.C. 2000PCR primers for microsatellite loci in the north European water frogs Rana ridibundaR. lessonaeMolecular Ecology911731174CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor J. C. Beebee
    • 1
  • John Buckley
    • 2
  • Ivor Evans
    • 3
  • Jim P. Foster
    • 4
    Email author
  • Antony H. Gent
    • 2
  • Chris P. Gleed-Owen
    • 2
  • Geoffrey Kelly
    • 5
  • Graham Rowe
    • 1
  • Charles Snell
    • 3
  • Julia T. Wycherley
    • 1
  • Inga Zeisset
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SussexBrightonUK
  2. 2.The Herpetological Conservation TrustBournemouthBH1 4AP
  3. 3.School of Chemical and Life SciencesUniversity of Greenwich KentUK
  4. 4.English NaturePeterboroughUK
  5. 5.Geoffrey Kelly NorwichUK
  6. 6.Department of Population Ecology Zoological InstituteUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen 0Denmark

Personalised recommendations