Frogs

Queensland has a diverse frog fauna. There are 105 species contained within six families. They range in size from the huge, recently discovered Andiirrmalin Frog (Litoria andiirrmalin) from the boulder fields of Cape Melville to the minute Northern Nursery-frog (Cophixalus crepitans) from the rainforests of the McIlwraith Range. They occupy every conceivable habitat. Some are brightly coloured, others drab. There are smooth frogs, warty frogs, skinny frogs, fat frogs, frilled frogs, long-legged frogs, sharp-snouted frogs and many more.

All frogs lay eggs – these may be deposited in water, leaf-litter, moist burrows or on vegetation of boulders over-hanging water - but some have taken this further. The female platypusfrogs (Rheobatrachus spp.) swallowed their own eggs and carried the developing young in their stomachs until the froglets emerged from their mouths. The male Marsupial Frog (Assa darlingtoni) has pockets for carrying his young. He enters the egg mass where the young tadpoles wriggle their way into special hip pouches. Here they stay and grow to emerge as young frogs seven weeks later.

Queensland frog families

Tree Frogs – Hylidae (54 species)

These frogs vary greatly in form.

The group includes obvious tree frogs (like the White-lipped Treefrog, Litoria infrafrenata and the Southern Orange-eyed Treefrog, L. chloris), agile climbers with long legs and large adhesive discs on the fingers and toes. It also includes strictly ground-dwelling species without toe discs (like the Bumpy Rocketfrog, Litoria inermis and the Northern Snapping-Frog, Cyclorana australis).

The defining features of these frogs are largely based on aspects of internal anatomy (pectoral girdle structure and the arrangement of cartilage between the bones of the fingers and toes).

All Australian hylid frogs lay their eggs in or directly above water.

Australian Marsupial Frog Australian Marsupial Frog, Assa darlingtoni, a limnodynastid frog.

Southern Frogs – Myobatrachidae (11 species) and Limnodynastidae (20 species)

As with the Tree Frogs, the Southern Frogs are also largely defined by internal anatomy. There are two families which, until recently, were united in the family Myobatrachidae. It is difficult to separate these families on external characters or life history traits and here they are discussed as a single group.

The group consists mainly of terrestrial (for example, the Great Barred-frog, Mixophyes fasciolatus, and the Australian Marsupial Frog, Assa darlingtoni) or burrowing (for example, the Chubby Gungan, Uperoleia rugosa, and the Holy Cross Frog, Notaden bennettii) species. There are no tree-dwelling forms but some inhabit fast flowing streams or waterfalls (for example, the Eungella Tinkerfrog, Taudactylus eungellensis) and the extinct Platypusfrogs (Rheobatrachus spp.) were entirely aquatic with fully webbed feet.

The Southern Frogs have some interesting breeding strategies. Whilst there are those that lay their eggs in water and have a free swimming tadpole stage (for example the Striped Marshfrog, Limnodynastes peronii ), others lay their eggs in moist burrows and the tadpole metamorphoses into a small frog within the egg capsule (for example, the Mountain-frogs, Philoria spp.). Then, of course, there’s the Australian Marsupial Frog (Assa darlingtoni), the male of which carries his tadpoles in special hip pouches. The strangest strategy of all belonged to Platypusfrogs (Rheobatrachus spp.) where the female gastric-brooded the eggs within her stomach.

Common Nursery Frog The Common Nursery Frog, Cophixalus ornatus, a microhylid frog.

Narrow-mouthed frogs – Microhylidae (18 species)

This is a group of small ground dwelling and semi-tree-dwelling frogs, all of which lay their eggs on land. The eggs are often guarded by the male and fully-formed frogs are produced within the eggs.

Only two genera of Narrow-mouthed Frogs occur in Australia, the Nursery-frogs (Cophixalus spp.) and the Chirpers (Austrochaperina spp.). The Nursery-frogs are mainly found in upland rainforests, but two species (the Boulder Nursery-frog, Cophixalus saxatilis, and the Cape Melville Nursery-frog, C. zweifeli) live amongst the cavities in boulder mountains. Both of these frogs are related to rainforest species and their modern habitat reflects the past, more widespread occurrence of rainforests in eastern Australia. The Chirpers are found in a broader range of habitats. The Shrill Chirper (Austrochaperina gracilipes), from Cape York Peninsula, inhabits rainforest, paperbark swamps, vegetation bordering creeks and moist pockets in drier forests.

True Frogs - Ranidae (1 species)

There is only one species of True Frog in Australia (the Australian Bullfrog, Sylvirana daemeli) and this is believed to have arrived in geologically recent times from New Guinea. True Frogs are abundant and widespread outside Australia and display enormous variety in lifestyle and body form. The Australian Bullfrog is large (body length up to 80 mm) with a pointed snout and angular body. It is pale to chocolate brown and has a distinctive skin fold running down each side of its back.

The Cane Toad, Rhinella marina

Toads – Bufonidae (1 species)

There are many species of Toads in other countries but only the Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) occurs in Australia. This species was introduced to Queensland from Hawaii in an attempt to control cane beetles in the sugar industry and is now a widespread pest. Cane Toads are ground-dwellers and are encountered in a wide range of habitats. However, although often found a long way from water, they must return to water to breed. Cane Toads are large (up to 26 cm body length, but adult specimens of around 10 cm are the norm). They have thick, warty skins, large venom-producing glands behind the ears, fully-webbed toes and a bony ridge on either side of the snout (above the nostril and eye).

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