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

Trevor Beebee, John Buckley, Ivor Evans, Jim P. Foster, Anthony Gent, Chris Gleed-Owen, Geoffrey Kelly, Graham Rowe, Charles Snell, Julia Wycherley, Inga Zeisset

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1607–1626
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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