Australian frogs species are disappearing

In 1993, two leading Queensland researchers (Glen Ingram, then of the Queensland Museum and Keith McDonald of the then Department of Environment) wrote;

In Queensland since 1978, seven species of frogs have disappeared and populations of another four have seriously declined..All the declines have occurred in upland rainforest and all the species live along or breed in streams. We ask the question “what is wrong with upland rainforest streams” and answer “nobody knows”. We note the 14 years elapsed from the time of the first disappearance in 1979 until intensive research began into the cause, or causes, of the declines. We ask “why” and conclude that the reasons were scepticism and a lack of interest in the plight of frogs. Finally we appeal for thought: there appear to be many clues to the solution of the problem of the declines.

Today (October, 1999) the situation has changed. After many years of painstakingly detailed field monitoring, breeding/ maintenance in captivity experiments and pathology testing, three likely causes for these declines have emerged. The first may be global warming. The second appears to be a micro-organism, a ‘fungus’ (Phylum Chytridiomycota of the Kingdom Protoctista). The third is undoubtedly people-related habitat destruction and degradation. All may be linked.

This problem is of major concern to everyone passionate about conservation of biodiversity. It is not confined to Queensland or Australia. Similar declines have been reported in North and South America, Europe, and South Africa, all areas where there are active biological research communities. In areas such as south east Asia and New Guinea, where monitoring has not been possible, no one can say whether or not frog populations are secure.

Nearly 20 years after this problem was first reported, a picture is emerging of why it has occurred. Yet to be determined, however, is the full-extent of the problem. Most critical is finding out what can be done to combat it and to find missing species or restore those nearly lost.

Which Australian frogs are disappearing?

Missing

  • Armoured Mist Frog, Litoria lorica Davies & McDonald, 1979
  • Mountain Mist Frog, L. nyakalensis Liem, 1974
  • Southern Gastric-brooding Frog, Rheobatrachus silus Liem, 1973
  • Northern Gastric-brooding Frog, R. vitellinus Mahony, Tyler & Davies, 1984
  • Sharp-snouted Day Frog, Taudactylus acutirostris (Andersson, 1916)
  • Southern Day Frog, T. diurnus Straughan & Lee, 1966
  • Northern Tinker Frog, T. rheophilus Liem & Hosmer, 1973

Declining

  • Freycinet’s Frog, L. freycineti Tschudi, 1838*
  • Green-eyed Tree Frog, L. genimaculata (Horst, 1883)
  • Waterfall Frog, L. nannotis (Anderson, 1916)
  • Wallum Sedge Frog, L. olongburensis Liem & Ingram, 1977*
  • Cascade Tree Frog, L. pearsoniana (Copland, 1961)
  • Common Mist Frog, L. rheocola Liem, 1974
  • Australian Lace-lid, Nyctimystes dayi (Gunther, 1871)
  • Eungella Day Frog, T. eungellensis Liem & Hosmer, 1973
  • Wallum Froglet, Crinia tinnula Straughan & Main, 1966*
  • Fleay’s Barred-Frog, Mixophyes fleayi Corben & Ingram, 1987
  • Giant Barred-Frog, M. iteratus Straughan, 1968

Presently secure despite population declines.

  • Tusked Frog, Adelotus brevis (Gunther, 1863)
  • Stony Creek Frog, L. lesueuri (Dumril & Bibron, 1841)

*These are ‘acid’ frogs from the heaths of the coastal strip and sand islands of south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. Survival of these species is threatened by the encroachment of urbanisation into natural areas. Habitat destruction and modification spell ‘disaster’ for highly specialized frogs.