Grow some frogs

Kuranda Conservation, Community Nursery, Grow some frogs

Frog possibly hatched from our tad(pole) tanks

All around the world, frogs are under threat. Between habitat loss, the incursion of invasive species, diseases, and climate change, our amphibians are in serious decline everywhere. Unfortunately, Kuranda is no exception – but happily there are many things you can do about it.

You can help frogs by planting native plants for frog habitat, building frog habitat into your home and garden area, keeping your pets indoors, and protecting your local waterways. When building frog habitat into your yard/garden, consider natural factors such as shelter plants as well as artificial components like “frog hotels.” Take care to avoid creating an ecological trap. Always keep in mind the ecological health and connectivity of not just your patch, but your surroundings – as frogs and other wildlife don’t recognize fences or borders. It’s a great opportunity to talk to your neighbors about frogs, wildlife, and wildlife corridors.

Many people go even further and give frogs a helping hand to help their gardens and the wider environment by setting up a frog pond. This may be no more than a large ceramic or plastic pot (or a wading pool) which is high enough to deter invasive cane toads from entry. Your pond needs to be deep enough or in sufficient shade to prevent the water from heating up and killing the tadpoles. Guppies can help remove mosquito eggs and larvae, and will not eat frog eggs. Be sure to add frog-friendly native plants to encourage them to climb into your pond. Once the pond is up and running, the frogs do all the work. Pop round to the nursery should you need any advice or plants for your pond.

One of Australia’s most endangered frogs is found right here in Kuranda: Litoria myola — the Kuranda Tree Frog. The Dept of SEWPC states that “[the Kuranda Tree Frog] is found in rainforest near slow-moving permanent and ephemeral streams (Hoskin 2007). All sites from which the species is known are close to the Barron River and between 300 and 400 m altitude. The sites are generally sheltered and experience little wind…. Streams inhabited by the Kuranda Tree Frog are meandering and structured as long, slow pools separated by short, shallow sections of riffles or cascades. The streams are small to moderate-sized, with low levels of flow (except following heavy rain)…  The species has been observed in relatively mature rainforest as well as in areas of regenerating rainforest. The species appears to require reasonably thick riparian forest and is generally absent from sites where only narrow strips of riparian forest have been retained (Hoskin 2007).” The Kuranda Tree Frog is critically endangered and by clearing riparian forest, humans are pushing it towards extinction. Intervention is urgently needed to save this frog and other vulnerable frog species in Kuranda.

Male Kuranda Tree Frogs are encountered calling along streams through the spring and summer months, primarily near riffle areas and small cascades (Hoskin 2007). Males are rarely encountered away from streams. Calling males clump around the shallower, flowing sections of streams. Female Kuranda Tree Frogs are rarely encountered, and those that have been found were visiting streams to breed. A few females have been observed in the mid and upper strata of rainforest trees (both near and far from streams) and Hoskin (2007) suggests that this is where they live when not visiting streams to breed. Just like other wildlife, frogs move through the landscape in response to changing temperatures, seasons, food availability and more. It’s a great example of how even animals as small as frogs need a variety of intact and well-connected rainforest microhabitats to survive.

The Kuranda Tree Frog breeds primarily in spring and summer. Tadpoles live in streams for about two months. Metamorphs (newly metamorphosed frogs) have been observed on streamside vegetation, but sub-adults have very rarely been observed in streams, suggesting that these frogs move into the forest to mature (Hoskin 2007). Generation length in the Kuranda Tree Frog is not known with certainty, but is estimated to be 3.5 years – another reason the species is so vulnerable.

Visit the Dept of SEWPC for more information on the Kuranda Tree Frog: http://www.environment.gov.au.

But we have plenty of other amazing local frog species too – and we see many of them at our very own plant nursery. One example is that appropriately enough, we have nursery frogs in the nursery. These frogs are very small and are known as microhylids which means ‘tiny tree frogs’. Within Australia, the microhylids are confined to the Wet Tropics. They are called nursery frogs because unusually, they don’t have a free-swimming tadpole. Instead, they lay a small clutch of eggs in very moist soil under rocks, logs and leaf litter. The eggs are coated with a special anti-fungal agent to help them survive in the wet environment. The tadpole actually develops inside the egg and when it has completed metamorphosis, it simply hatches from the egg as a fully formed tiny frog.

Read on for more on local frogs:

 Frogs grown in Kuranda

 

 

References:

Hoskin, C.J. (2007). Description, biology and conservation of a new species of Australian tree frog (Hylidae: Litoria) and an assessment of the remaining populations of Litoria genimaculata Horst 1883: systematics and conservation implications of an unusual speciation event. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society. 91:549-563.

Morrison, C., J.M. Hero & J. Browning (2004). Altitudinal variation in the age at maturity, longevity, and reproductive lifespan of anurans in subtropical Queensland. Herpetologica. 60:34-44.