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Little waterfall frog

Common name: little waterfall frog

Scientific name: Litoria lorica

Family: Hylidae (tree frogs)

Conservation status: This species is listed as Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and Critically Endangered nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is considered a low priority under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Back on Track species prioritisation framework.

Description

This medium sized frog has males ranging from 29 to 33 mm and females from 33 to 37 mm long. The upper surface is uniform grey or grey-brown, smooth and with scattered small tubercules. The underneath of the frog is white, variably peppered with dark brown on the throat and granular on the thorax, abdomen and backs of the thighs, but smooth elsewhere.

The finger and toe discs are well developed. The fingers have basal webbing and the toes are fully webbed. The hands have an enlarged prepollex (a lump on the base of a frog’s thumb). Males have black spiny nuptial pads and accessory spines on the chest. The head is evenly rounded, with snout truncate and nostrils terminal. The tympanum (ear recess) is small and indistinct. The vocal sac is absent.

Habitat and distribution

The little waterfall frog is found on boulders in the splash zone near turbulent, fast-flowing water in upland rainforest and adjacent sclerophyll forest.

This species is only known from five localities in north-east Queensland: Thornton Peak, Mt Pieter Botte, Mossman Gorge and Carbine Tableland. Only the recently discovered Carbine Tableland population is still extant. The species has not been found at the remaining four sites since 1991, despite ongoing survey efforts.

Life history and behaviour

The call of this species is unknown. Females carry large unpigmented eggs. The tadpoles, though undescribed, are probably similar to those of the waterfall frog Litoria nannotis - with large suctorial mouths for feeding in fast-flowing streams.

Threatening processes

The little waterfall frog is one of seven species of frogs occurring in the upland rainforest streams of north-eastern Queensland which have undergone rapid and substantial population declines in the last decade (Richards et al 1993).

Chytridiomycosis is a highly infectious disease of amphibians, caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus. The fungus was first discovered in dead and dying frogs in Queensland in 1993 and has been directly implicated in the dramatic decline of many frog species. The little waterfall frog has been assessed as being at high risk of extinction from the impacts of chytrid fungus under the national Threat abatement plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus 2016.

Recovery actions

The recovery plan for the conservation of stream-dwelling frogs of the Wet Tropics bioregion makes the following management recommendations

  • Monitor historical localities to detect recovery.
  • Investigate disease in preserved animals and species occupying similar habitat.
  • Develop and refine husbandry techniques for rainforest steam dwelling frogs.
  • Train park staff and community volunteers in identification of this species.
  • Implement monitoring by park staff of select locations within the national park estate where the little waterfall frog formerly occurred.

The Threat abatement plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus 2016 also provides objectives and actions to manage the impacts of chytrid fungus.

Related information

Curtis LK, Dennis AJ, McDonald KR, Kyne PM, and Debus SJS. 2012. Queensland’s Threatened Animals, CSIRO, Victoria, Australia

Department of the Environment and Energy. 2016. Threat abatement plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis (2016), Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Northern Queensland threatened Frogs Recovery Team. 2001. Recovery plan for the stream-dwelling rainforest frogs of the Wet Tropics biogeographic region of north-east Queensland 2000-2004. Report to Environment Australia, Canberra. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.

Richards, SJ, McDonald, KR, Alford, RA. 1993. Declines in populations of Australia’s endemic tropical rainforest frogs. Pacific Conservation Biology 1: 66-77.

Skerratt LF, Berger L, Clemann N, Hunter DA, Marantelli G, Newell DA, Philips A, McFadden M, Hines HB, Scheele BC, Brannelly LA, Speare R, Versteegen S, Cashins SD, West, M 2016. Priorities for management of chytridiomycosis in Australia: saving frogs from extinction. Wildlife Research 43, 105-120.

Last updated
26 July 2017