North America is home to anuran species belonging to the families Bufonidae, Eleutherodactylidae, Hylidae, Leiopelmatidae, Ranidae, and Scaphiopodidae but antimicrobial peptides have been identified only in skin secretions and/or skin extracts of frogs belonging to the Leiopelmatidae ("tailed frogs") and Ranidae ("true frogs"). Eight structurally-related cationic alpha-helical peptides with broad-spectrum antibacterial activity, termed ascaphins, have been isolated from specimens of Ascaphus truei (Leiopelmatidae) occupying a coastal range. Characterization of orthologous antimicrobial peptides from Ascaphus specimens occupying an inland range supports the proposal that this population should be regarded as a separate species A. montanus. Ascaphin-8 shows potential for development into a therapeutically valuable anti-infective agent. Peptides belonging to the brevinin-1, esculentin-1, esculentin-2, palustrin-1, palustrin-2, ranacyclin, ranatuerin-1, ranatuerin-2, and temporin families have been isolated from North American ranids. It is proposed that "ranalexins" represent brevinin-1 peptides that have undergone a four amino acid residue internal deletion. Current taxonomic recommendations divide North American frogs from the family Ranidae into two genera: Lithobates and Rana. Cladistic analysis based upon the amino acid sequences of the brevinin-1 peptides provides strong support for this assignment.