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Field Guide to the Frogs of Australia: Revised Edition

Field Guide to the Frogs of Australia: Revised Edition

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Field Guide to the Frogs of Australia: Revised Edition

388 pages
2 heures
Oct 1, 2011


Throughout much of the world, frog populations are declining and some species are disappearing totally. In Australia, several species have become extinct in the past 25 years.
This revised and updated guide provides concise accounts of all the known frogs of Australia. There are 230 species within the five native frog families: Hylidae, Limnodynastidae, Microhylidae, Myobatrachidae and Ranidae. Also included are the introduced Cane Toad and nine ‘stowaway’ species that have arrived in Australia.
The text for each species includes details of size, status, distribution, habitat, behaviour and advertisement call. Each species is accompanied by a map of Australia showing its known distribution, and a full-colour painted illustration. Closely related frogs are shown in identical poses so that comparisons can be made readily. The introductory section of the book covers frog biology and habitats and includes notes on families and genera.
Oct 1, 2011

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Field Guide to the Frogs of Australia - Michael J. Tyler








Michael J Tyler and Frank Knight

Text © Michael J Tyler 2009 and 2011

Illustrations © Frank Knight 2009 and 2011

All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 and subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, duplicating or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Contact CSIRO PUBLISHING for all permission requests.

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry

Tyler, Michael J., 1937–

Field guide to the frogs of Australia / by Michael J Tyler and Frank Knight. Revised ed.

9780643103986 (pbk.)

9780643103993 (epdf)

9780643104006 (epub)

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Frogs – Australia – Identification.

Knight, Frank.


Published by


150 Oxford Street (PO Box 1139)

Collingwood VIC 3066


Telephone: +61 3 9662 7666

Local call:   1300 788 000 (Australia only)

Fax:            +61 3 9662 7555

Email:         publishing.sales@csiro.au

Web site: www.publish.csiro.au

Cover and text design by James Kelly

Printed in China by 1010 Printing International

CSIRO PUBLISHING publishes and distributes scientific, technical and health science books, magazines and journals from Australia to a worldwide audience and conducts these activities autonomously from the research activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of, and should not be attributed to, the publisher or CSIRO.


Throughout the world, many species are declining and becoming extinct at alarmingly high rates. Frogs have the highest proportion of vertebrate species threatened with extinction. For example, the IUCN Red List of Threatened and Endangered Species indicated that one in three of Earth’s amphibian species are endangered. Australia’s frogs are no exception, with close to 30 per cent of species either under threat, extinct or of uncertain conservation status.

There are many reasons advanced for the serious plight of the world’s frogs. These include habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, relatively low vagility, high vulnerability when moving over inhospitable terrain, relatively narrow habitat specificity, vulnerability to pathogens, impacts of invasive species, impacts of climate change, increased exposure to ultra-violet light, exposure to pollution, and a range of these factors working synergistically. Frogs may well constitute the best indicators for environmental change of all of our biota. For that reason alone, frogs deserve much more attention and concern than has been devoted to them to now. From a purely selfish, anthropocentric perspective, it is in our own survival interests that we need to know much more about the biology and ecology of frogs, and the reasons for their decline. The first step in this process is being able to identify them. This is where this excellent field guide is so important.

The first national field guide to Australia’s frogs, published in 1977, described about 150 species. The authors (John Barker and Gordon Grigg) predicted then that more species would be discovered. This was shown clearly with their second national field guide, published in 1995, which included a further fifty species. Dr Michael Tyler, one of Australia’s pre-eminent frog biologists, was one of the authors of the 1995 field guide. Since then, more species have been discovered and this excellent field guide, written by Dr Tyler, includes descriptions of 227 species native to Australia; an increase of over 13 per cent on the total described in 1995. Undoubtedly more will be identified as a result of better coverage of remote areas and of taxonomic revisions in the light of more refined taxonomic techniques. Dr Tyler estimates that Australia may have about 240 species of frog. It is to be hoped that all will be identified before any further species extinctions occur.

A good field guide should contain only the information necessary to identify the organism of interest. This should include an informative text that gives the latest scientific and common names of the species, a description of the species, its distribution, its habitat, its vocalisations, something about its conservation status, and an account of any species with which it could be confused. Dr Tyler has written an excellent text which covers these areas and is not burdened with information about biology which is not relevant to identification. A good field guide should also provide illustrations which, together with the text, provide the most appropriate visual information on which to base identifications. This is the first field guide to Australian frogs which does not use photographs. Frank Knight, one of Australia’s most talented wildlife artists, has produced a superb set of illustrations which place the frogs in a similar stance, making comparisons considerably easier than with photographs. Dr Tyler’s text and Mr Knight’s illustrations combined make for an excellent, easy-to-use field guide that also provides a solid introduction to the taxonomy and biology of frogs.

Dr Denis A Saunders AM

President WWF-Australia





Families and genera



Species accounts

Checklist of genera and species



Index of scientific names

Index of common names


Many books have been written on the identification of the frogs of Australia. Most are field guides to particular portions of the continent: states, territories, cities or other specific regions, and all of them use photographs to illustrate the various species. The problem with this approach is that, although each illustration may be superb, it is very difficult to identify species of similar appearance when the poses are not identical. Until now, my ventures into the production of field guides, either on my own or in collaboration with others, have followed this format.

For many years, I have admired the superb work of the nature illustrator Frank Knight. As a result of a chance meeting, we agreed to collaborate on a field guide to the frogs of Australia. It was to be in the same format as his publications on birds and mammals. What it would do is overcome the deficiency of the photographic approach. Closely related species with similar appearances would be presented in identical poses and, wherever possible, adjacent to one another to facilitate identification.

We have tried to include all described species; a little artistic licence was involved in the illustration of Uperoleia marmorata which has not been rediscovered for more than 150 years, since it was first found in the Kimberley district of Western Australia. Similarly, U. orientalis has proven particularly elusive and the faded museum specimens give no indication of its colour.

Some of the statements made in the species accounts have been taken from the literature. These sources have been included in the References cited on pages 174–179. Every effort has been made to ensure that there are no omissions.

Numerous colleagues have provided photographs or data vital to the project. I would like to thank Marion Anstis, Hal Cogger, Margaret Davies, Scott Eipper, Conrad Hoskin, Murray Littlejohn, Mike Mahony, Keith McDonald, Steve Richards and John Weigel.

Many friends joined me on field trips and made them inspiring occasions. I would particularly like to thank Margaret Davies, Angus Martin and Graeme Watson. Together we found numerous new species and observed fascinating events. To share the experience of seeing or hearing a frog, and know instantly that it is a species new to science, is an extremely exciting event. These experiences were made possible by the provision of permits by the relevant authorities in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. I am grateful to Bronwyn Green who typed the first draft of the manuscript, and also to Michael Mahony who reviewed the final one.

Finally I thank Frank Knight for his patience and friendship, and Nick Alexander for the stimulation created by his enthusiasm for the project.

Michael J Tyler

Revised edition

Following publication of the first edition in 2009, four more new species have been described, the name of one has been changed, and one more (Neobatrachus centralis) has been suppressed, bringing the current total to 230.

Our original estimate of the likely total of Australian species, when all have been discovered and described, was 240. We now know that this is short of the actual figure. In reality it will be more than 250. Other species cannot be described until more specimens are located. These include a Litoria and a microhylid from eastern Arnhem Land and possibly a further Uperoleia from Katherine in the Northern Territory.

One person more than any other contributed to the revised edition: Renee Catullo clarified appearances and distributions of several Uperoleia species in Western Australia.

Artist’s acknowledgements

My thanks go to those who helped me to get information for the illustrations from specimens, photographs and drawings. They include Leo Joseph’s team at the Australian National Wildlife Collection at Gungahlin, particularly Robert Palmer and John Wombey, who found me specimens. Ken Aplin, also based at the Wildlife Collection, helped me greatly to identify what I was trying to see down a microscope. Others who let me use their photographs include Andrew Stauber, Conrad Hoskin and Will Osborne.

Of course I’m most grateful to the author, Mike Tyler, who managed to get the writing done in a period when he had many other calls on his time. I enjoyed the collaboration. From start to finish, Nick Alexander, our publisher at CSIRO Publishing, has been heavily involved – a third partner in the enterprise.

Frank Knight


The principal purpose of a field guide is to assist the process of identification. Pattern, colour, size, skin texture, male advertisement call, odour and geographic distribution, all can contribute to determining identifications. In this field guide we have tried to minimise the effort needed to achieve an accurate identification. Using keys can be laborious and the simplest method is to flick through the illustrations and check the distribution maps, although this will not help in situations where hearing the call is vital to distinguish similar species.

Latin names

Each species is associated with a genus, and the generic name precedes the specific. As opposed to common or colloquial names, one of the greatest attributes of Latin names has been their stability and the existence of official guidelines which define their formation and treatment.

The concept of stability of Latin nomenclature was lost in 2006. In that year, Daryl Frost of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and 18 of his colleagues throughout the world, produced a voluminous monograph reassessing the frog fauna on the basis of genetic studies. One of the criticisms of this work has been the limited number of species available to them for study.

As far as Australia is concerned, the genus Bufo has been split, and Bufo marinus has become Rhinella marinus. Bufo has been retained here pending the response of the zoological community to the proposed changes.

Other major changes proposed by Frost and his colleagues include not recognising Cyclorana and Nyctimystes as genera distinct from Litoria. For the purposes of this field guide, each can be readily distinguished from Litoria and they have been retained here. The issue is that a field guide is a utilitarian device and we need the simplest approach.

Some key parts of the frog. The measurement given in each species account is the snout to vent length.

Common or colloquial names

Long before scientists adopted a system of scientific names in Latin, frogs were given names which are now referred to as ‘common’ or ‘colloquial’. There is nothing wrong with adopting common names, provided that their use precludes the possibility of different species in the same geographic area sharing the same name.

With 5000 species requiring names, there are simply not enough available. Thus we have ‘Bullfrog’ being used for totally different species in different places in different countries. ‘Green Tree Frog’ or simply ‘Tree Frog’ are other names used widely for totally different creatures.

In this book we have used both Latin and common names. The Latin names are those in use in 2008. We have chosen one common name because it seems to be the most popular, although we have included other common names for some species because they have been used in several publications.

It has been proposed that in Queensland particular common names be adopted. Sadly, in several instances, the same species occupies much of the Northern Territory, where the traditional name remains in vogue. Clearly there is a need for the creation and adoption of a national system of nomenclature.


Within Australia, frogs are transported accidentally from state to state among produce. Most commonly, tree frogs travel among bananas from Queensland to the southern states, but potted plants from nurseries are another source.

Less frequently, frogs are imported alive from overseas. We have included details of those species encountered. None has become established in Australia, but the risk remains and it is of benefit to be aware of what they look like.

From time to time, Australian frogs have been accidentally introduced elsewhere. The most well-known examples are Litoria fallax, which was established in Guam during the Vietnam War, and Litoria infrafrenata, which became established at the botanical gardens at Bogor in Indonesia in the nineteenth century. In addition, a specimen of Litoria adelaidensis reached Christmas Island in a shipment of cabbages from Myalup near

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