A potentially lethal frog disease, the chytrid fungus (pronounced "kit rid"), has been discovered in Tasmania, and now occurs across much of the State. The disease has been implicated in significant declines and extinctions globally - currently one third of all amphibian species are considered threatened worldwide.
Chytrid infection has spread widely in habitats associated with human disturbance. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is still largely free of disease. Although infected frogs are rarely observed in the wild, the disease can lead to abnormal behaviour and posture. If you observe such signs, please report it to Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment on (03) 6165 4305 or email@example.com
The movement of infected frogs, tadpoles and water are the known key agents of spread. The fungus (or infected frogs or tadpoles) can be spread by people in water and mud on boots, camping equipment and vehicle tyres, and in water used for drinking, or spraying on gravel roads or fighting fires.
, including steps you can take to ensure that you reduce the chances of spreading the disease, are available on the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment web site.
Eleven species of frog are found in Tasmania. These include three endemic species and two threatened species. The Tasmanian species are:
The genus Litoria
is by far the largest genus of Australian frogs, accounting for over a quarter of the 216 currently described Australian species. It is likely that further studies of this diverse group will lead to the genus being split.
- If you’d like information on our frogs in a more portable format, complete with calls and the ability to record sightings, download our app from the iTunes Store
(available for Apple iPad, iPod touch and iPhone).
Introduced Tree Frogs
One of the most common cases of the accidental importation of animals into Tasmania is the arrival of Queensland tree frogs on bananas. The frogs that usually arrive here belong to those species that live on banana plants. They are the green tree frog, the dwarf tree frog and the dainty tree or banana frog. These unwelcome imports pose a significant threat to Tasmania’s native frogs. See the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment web pages for details.
Amphibians are composed of three diverse groups of species. Salamanders and newts comprise some 300 species which are widespread through Asia, the Americas and Europe, while the Gymnophiona are a little known group of some 150 species of legless burrowing or aquatic amphibians predominantly confined to the tropics of Africa, Asia and South America.
The Anurans, or frogs, comprising some 4000 known species, are the best known group and the only Order of amphibians found in Australia. Some 94% of all Australia's 200 or so species - and all Tasmanian species - are believed to have evolved on the ancient southern continent of Gondwana, of which Australia and South America were a part. It is therefore not surprising to find that Australia's frogs have their closest affinities with South American species.
Many species of frogs throughout the world are in decline. These animals are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment, possibly as a result of the high permeability of their skin. As such, they are important 'biological indicators' of the health, or otherwise, of the Earth's ecosystems.
Most - not all - species of frog pass through a larval (tadpole) stage. The word 'tadpole' is derived from a medieval English word meaning 'toad head'. The duration of the larval stage varies from species to species. The banjo frog spends 12-15 months as a tadpole, while the common froglet has a larval life span of 6-10 weeks. It has been shown that, in some species at least, the growth rate of tadpoles is related to the population density within the pond and the available food supply. All other things being equal, tadpoles in high densities grow at a slower rate than those occurring in lower numbers.
Adult frogs are carnivorous, unlike tadpoles which are herbivorous. The major part of their diet consists of a variety of insects. Food location is by sight. Prey needs to be moving to stimulate the frog into capturing its prey. The long, sticky tongue is flicked forward, ensnaring the prey.
An obvious characteristic of frogs is their calls. Indeed, frogs may have been the first animals to communicate by sound. Only the males call. In many species, the ear is tuned to only a narrow range of frequencies, enabling a frog of a particular species to hear only the calls of its own species or species with a call of similar frequency. Calls are made not only to attract females, but also to advertise their presence. Many frogs also emit a 'release call', used when a male grasps another male with the misguided intention of mating.
The call of each of the Tasmanian species is provided as a sound file.
Martin, A. A. and Littlejohn, M. J. (1982). Tasmanian Amphibians. Fauna of Tasmania Handbook no. 6. Fauna of Tasmania Committee, University of Tasmania.