The transition from aquatic to terrestrial habitat is thought to be a period of high mortality for amphibians. We used radio telemetry to estimate survival and study factors influencing survivorship of newly metamorphosed Gopher Frogs (Rana capito). Predation was very high and only 12.5% of frogs survived their first month in the terrestrial habitat. All documented predation occurred during the frogs' initial 12 days in the uplands, and snakes (Coluber constrictor and Thamnophis sirtalis) were the major predators. Also, frogs were preyed upon by mammals and birds and killed by vehicles along dirt roads. Survival rates varied among ponds, with the survival rate at one pond being significantly lower than survival rates at three other ponds. Survival of frogs was dependent on their use of underground refuges, particularly burrows excavated by Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) and small mammals. Using underground refuges reduced the risk of mortality to only 4% of that faced by frogs while in the open environment; in fact, all surviving frogs located a burrow within their initial eight days in the terrestrial habitat and remained there for the duration of tracking. Our results demonstrate the dependence of Gopher Frogs on underground refuges and suggest that the availability of burrows near breeding ponds influences survival of juveniles and, thus, the recruitment of adults.
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