New Australian amphibian species discovery

Pilbara toadlet (Uperoleia saxatilis)

From COSMOS magazine:

New Australian toadlet species discovered

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

by Becky Crew

SYDNEY: A new miniature frog species has been identified in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, proving that the area is not as poor in biodiversity as thought.

Genetic analysis by researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, the Western Australian Museum and the University of Western Australia in Perth has shown that the large, dry region contains a surprising array of frog species, with many waiting to be formerly described.

Belonging to a group of small Australian frogs known as toadlets, the new species, named the Pilbara toadlet (Uperoleia saxatilis), is just two centimetres long, and calls the rocky gorges and creeks of the arid and semi-arid region home.

“It was in a group well-known among herpetologists for being tiny and brown and hard to tell apart,” said lead researcher and PhD student from ANU, Renee Catullo.

“Genetic techniques are increasingly being used to identify new species across Australia that use calls, pheromones, or behaviour to tell each other apart. In these cases genetic techniques can tell us which groups are interbreeding, even when it’s hard to visually differentiate them.”

Not one species but two

Together with the genetic analysis, Catullo looked at physical features of the frogs, such as the length of legs, the shape of the body and how much webbing was between their toes. Recordings of their calls, and a knowledge of their preferred habitats led to the separation of two different, but visually similar, species – the well-known northwest toadlet and the Pilbara toadlet.

“You can tell them apart by using software that shows the different pulses in their calls. Eventually I was able to hear a call and know what it was to tell the different species apart,” said Catullo.

“Little is known about this small, brown creature, but it has been found following cyclonic rains and occurs in rocky gorges and creeks of the region.”

More species to be found

With the new addition of the Pilbara toadlet, the total number of known toadlet species has been brought to 27. It is the second largest group of frog species in the country.

“We think this species is pretty secure (from a conservation perspective). It’s pretty widespread. What’s more interesting is that the northwest toadlet (Uperoleia russelli ) was thought to be spread right up to Port Hedland, but now we’ve found it has a much narrower habitat. It needs more investigation, but it’s not seen often and is very hard to catch,” said Catullo.

“Some of the work I’ve done shows that there are other species of frogs in the tropics that still haven’t been described yet.”

Not so barren after all

The discovery was part of a research project funded by the Herman Slade Foundation in Port Macquarie, New South Wales that uses genetic techniques to try and understand the true number of species of toadlets.

“The deserts of Australia are often believed to be empty regions with few species. However genetic work on reptiles and amphibians has shown that there are large numbers of species in what looks like a barren landscape to most people,” said Catullo.

“This new breakthrough emphasises the need for further research into understanding the biodiversity of Australian deserts.”

See also here.

“Lost” Amphibian Stages Amazing Reappearing Act in Borneo after Eluding Scientists for 87 years: here.

Since boyhood, Ben Han has witnessed sharp declines of amphibians in his patch of the world, a stretch of lush and misty mountains on the borderlands of China and Vietnam. He’s now on a mission to uncover what’s happening to the region’s wildlife. His eye is on one distinctive hopper in particular: the moustache toad. Facing threats of hunting and pollution, the future for these toads is fragile, according to Han: here.

Australia: Green tree frogs survive by using lemonade physics. According to a new study, the amphibians spend some time in the chilly outdoors and then hop into a warm tree den, a move that produces condensation on their skin just like on a cool glass of lemonade left out of the fridge. Then the frogs soak up the dew, keeping them well hydrated during long, rainless months: here.

How Eating Frog Legs Is Causing Frog Extinctions – Scientific American (blog): here.

2 thoughts on “New Australian amphibian species discovery

  1. Pingback: Australian frogs saved by app | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Wildlife criminals caught in Australia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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