List of amphibians of Australia

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The leaf green tree frog (Litoria phyllochroa) is a species of tree frog common to forests of eastern Australia. Litoria phyllochroa.JPG
The leaf green tree frog (Litoria phyllochroa) is a species of tree frog common to forests of eastern Australia.

Amphibians of Australia are limited to members of the order Anura, commonly known as frogs. All Australian frogs are in the suborder Neobatrachia, also known as the modern frogs, which make up the largest proportion of extant frog species. About 230 of the 5,280 species of frog are native to Australia with 93% of them endemic. [1] [2] Compared with other continents, species diversity is low, and may be related to the climate of most of the Australian continent. [3] There are two known invasive amphibians, the cane toad and the smooth newt. [4] [5]



The Australian continent once formed part of the supercontinent Pangaea, which split into Gondwana and Laurasia approximately 180 million years ago. The earliest true frog fossil, Vieraella herbsti , is dated between 188 and 213 million years old. [6] This predates the splitting of Gondwana, and has resulted in frogs present on all continents.

The first two continents to split from Australia were South America and Africa. The amphibian fauna of both these continents are varied due to collisions with Laurasian continents. However, the South African family Heleophrynidae, and the South American family Leptodactylidae, are both closely related to Myobatrachidae, an Australian family of ground dwelling frogs. [7]

Fossil data suggests the tree frogs, of the family Hylidae, originated in South America after its separation from Africa. Outside Australia, tree frogs are widespread throughout much of North and South America, Europe and Asia. Tree frogs presumably migrated to Australia via Antarctica. Similarities in melanosomes between some Litoria and Phyllomedusa suggests a relationship between the South American and Australian tree frogs, however immunological evidence suggests an early divergence between the families. [8]

India, Madagascar and Seychelles split from Gondwana approximately 130 million years ago. The family Sooglossidae is native to both India and the Seychelles, and is considered a sister taxon to Myobatrachidae. Sooglossidae is more closely related to Myobatrachidae than the African or South American families.

Australia and New Guinea are the two major land masses which make up the Australian continent. During its history, there have been many land connections between New Guinea and Australia. The most recent of which severed 10,000 years ago during the transition from a glacial period to the current interglacial period. The result of this recent land connection on the Australian amphibian fauna has been the swapping of species, and even families. The origin of the frog species found on both land masses can be determined by their distributions. It is likely that White's tree frog (Litoria caerulea) migrated from Australia to New Guinea, as it is widespread in Australia and only inhabits small areas within New Guinea. Whereas the giant tree frog (Litoria infrafrenata) is likely from New Guinea, as it is widespread in New Guinea, and only inhabits the Cape York Peninsula in Australia. The single Nyctimystes species in Australia is another example of genus swapping that occurred between New Guinea and Australia.

There are two families which are widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere which only inhabit far northern Australia. These are Microhylidae and the Ranidae. Two of the 59 genera of Microhylidae, and only one of approximately 750 species of Ranidae are native to Australia. Although both these families are widely distributed throughout the world, they have only recently reached Australia and New Guinea. This is because the Australian continent has remained isolated since its separation from Antarctica, and as it has drifted north towards Asia, many species have been able to cross into New Guinea, and eventually Australia. However, most of the ecological niches filled by frogs had been filled before the ranids and microhylids reached Australia, so only a limited number of species have established.


The distribution of Australian frogs is largely influenced by climate. The areas of largest biodiversity occur in the tropical and temperate zones of northern and eastern Australia. Arid areas have restricted amphibian biodiversity, as frogs generally require water to breed. Many Australian frog species have adapted to deal with the harsh conditions of their habitat. Many species, such as those of the genus Cyclorana , burrow underground to avoid heat and prolonged drought conditions. Tadpole and egg development of frogs from arid regions differs from those from higher rainfall regions. Some species, such as those of Cyclorana and other desert dwelling species have relatively short tadpole development periods. These species often breed in temporary, shallow pools where the high water temperature speeds up tadpole development. Tadpoles that live in such pools can complete development within a month. On the other hand, species such as those in the genus Mixophyes live in areas of high rainfall. Metamorphosis of Mixophyes tadpoles may take as long as fifteen months. The sandhill frog (Arenophryne rotunda) lives in sand dunes between Shark Bay and Kalbarri National Park in Western Australia. This area has very little free-standing water and therefore this species has adapted another way of tadpole development. Sandhill frogs lay their eggs under the sand and the tadpoles develop into frogs entirely within the egg. This adaptation allows them to breed with the absence of water.

There are large variety of habitats inhabited by Australian frogs. Variations in rainfall, temperature, altitude and latitude have resulted in a large number of habitats in Australia, most of which are inhabited by frogs. In the Nullarbor Plain, daytime temperatures can reach 48.5 °C nights can have freezing condition and rainfall is less than 200 mm per year. These factors make it very difficult for frogs to survive, and few species are found in this area.


The growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis) is listed as endangered because of an estimated 50% population decline over the past 10 years. Litoria raniformis.jpg
The growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis) is listed as endangered because of an estimated 50% population decline over the past 10 years.

During the 1980s, population declines were reported in Australian frog species and are severe in some areas. Many of the frogs that were reported as declining were high altitude, creek dwelling species that were remote from a changing ecology. This indicated that habitat loss and degradation were not responsible for all the declines; the cause is unknown but a diseases known as chytrid fungus may be a factor. [9] In some cases entire genera were found declining. Both species of gastric brooding frog are now classified as extinct and all but two species of Taudactylus are critically endangered ( Taudactylus diurnus is classified as extinct and Taudactylus liemi is classified as near threatened). Every species in the genus Philoria is currently declining [10] and some species in the "torrent frog" complex ( Litoria nannotis , Litoria lorica , Litoria nyakalensis and Litoria rheocola ) have not been located for a number of years. As of 2006 three Australian species of frog are classified as extinct, 14 listed as critically endangered and 18 as endangered. Of the 14 critically endangered species 4 have not been recorded for over 15 years and may now be extinct. [11]

Prior to the large scale declines of the 1980s, habitat destruction was the major threat to Australian frog species since colonisation. [12] For example, the decline of the giant burrowing frog (Heleioporus australiacus) was mostly attributed to altered land use and fire regimes, such as land clearing for housing or agriculture and high intensity fires. [13] The distribution of the giant burrowing frog included Sydney, and therefore, large populations were destroyed.

Extinct frogs

Critically endangered frogs

Fleay's barred frog (Mixophyes fleayi) is restricted to a fragmented range of less than 500 km ; this species is classified as endangered. Mixophyes fleayi.JPG
Fleay's barred frog (Mixophyes fleayi) is restricted to a fragmented range of less than 500 km ; this species is classified as endangered.

Endangered frogs

The Eungella torrent frog (Taudactylus eungellensis) is listed as critically endangered because of its small geographic range of 10 km . Taudactylus eungellensis 1.jpg
The Eungella torrent frog (Taudactylus eungellensis) is listed as critically endangered because of its small geographic range of 10 km .

A * indicates possible extinction. [14]

Australian amphibian genera

Australia's amphibian consists of four native families, one introduced family and one introduced order. The sole species of true toad introduced to Australia which has naturalised, is the cane toad (Rhinella marinus), of the family Bufonidae. The cane toad was introduced to several locations throughout Queensland, and has since spread west and south. [5] [15] The introduction of smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) marks the arrival of the order Urodela to the continent. Despite being prohibited to import, they have been located and have spread considerably to various locations in Melbourne from 2011 to 2016. It has potential to spread throughout south-eastern Australia. [4] [16] [17]

The tree frogs, of the family Hylidae, are one of the major families in Australia, with over 70 species. The tree frogs are split into three genera: Cyclorana , Litoria and Nyctimystes . The tree frogs of Australia have various habits, from completely arboreal to fossorial.

The other major family native to Australia is Myobatrachidae, consisting of 17 to 22 genera and 112 species. Myobatrachidae is endemic to Australia, New Guinea and a few small islands, however the highest diversity can be found in Australia. [18]

Microhylidae and Ranidae make up a small amount of the Australian frog fauna, with less than 20 species in Microhylidae and one species of Ranidae. The majority of the species within these families are found throughout the world, with Australia making up a small portion of their diversity.

Bufonidae - 1 genus, 1 species (introduced)
GenusCommon namesExample speciesExample photoAustralian range
Rhinella - 1 species
Fitzinger, 1826
Beaked toads or Rio Viejo toads Cane toad (Rhinella marinus) Bufo marinus from Australia.JPG Bufo marinus australian range.png

Map now out of date.

Hylidae - 1 sub-family, 3 genera, 78 species
GenusCommon namesExample speciesExample photoAustralian range
Cyclorana - 13 species
Steindachner, 1867
Water holding frogs Striped burrowing frog (Cyclorana alboguttata) Cyclorana alboguttata.jpg Cyclorana distribution.png
Litoria - 64 species
Tschudi, 1838
Tree frogs White's tree frog (Litoria caerulea) Australia green tree frog (Litoria caerulea) crop.jpg Litoria aus ditrib.png
Nyctimystes - 1 species
Stejneger, 1916
Big eyed tree frogs Australian lace-lid (Nyctimystes dayi ) Nyctimystes dayi.jpg Nyctimystes dayi.png
Microhylidae - 1 sub-family, 2 genera, 19 species
GenusCommon namesExample speciesExample photoAustralian range
Austrochaperina - 5 species
Fry, 1912
Nursery frogs Fry's frog (Austrochaperina fryi) Fry's Frog - Austrochaperina fryi.jpg Austrochaperina australian distribution.png
Cophixalus - 14 species
Boettger, 1892
Rainforest frogs Ornate nurseryfrog (Cophixalus ornatus) Cophixalus ornatus01.jpg Cophixalus distribution.png
Myobatrachidae - 3 sub-families, 20 genera, 119 species (3 extinct)
GenusCommon namesExample speciesExample photoAustralian range
Adelotus - 1 species
Ogilby, 1907
Tusked frog Tusked frog (Adelotus brevis) Adelotus brevis.jpg Adelotus brevis distribution map.png
Arenophryne - 2 species
Tyler, 1976
Sandhill frog Sandhill frog (Arenophryne rotunda) Sandhillfrog.jpg Arenophryne rotunda distibution.PNG
Assa - 1 species
Tyler, 1972
Pouched frog Pouched frog (Assa darlingtoni) Assa darlingtoni.jpg Assa darlingtoni distibution.png
Crinia - 15 species
Tschudi, 1838
Australian froglets Common eastern froglet (Crinia signifera) Crinia signifera.jpg Crinia distribution.png
Geocrinia - 7 species
Blake, 1973
Ground froglets Smooth frog (Geocrinia laevis) Southern Smooth Froglet (Geocrinia laevis) (8743396751).jpg Geocrinia range.PNG
Heleioporus - 6 species
Gray, 1841
Giant burrowing frogs Giant burrowing frog (Heleioporus australiacus) Heleioporus australiacus (male).jpg Heleioporus range.PNG
Lechriodus - 1 species
Boulenger, 1882
Cannibal frogs Fletcher's frog (Lechriodus fletcheri) Lechriodus fletcheri.jpg Lechriodus fletcheri distribution map.png
Limnodynastes - 13 species
Fitzinger, 1843
Australian swamp frogs Eastern banjo frog (Limnodynastes dumerilli) Pobblebonk02.jpg Lim distrib.PNG
Metacrinia - 1 species
Parker, 1940
Nicholl's toadlet Nicholl's toadlet (Metacrinia nichollsi)- Metacrinia nichollsi.png
Mixophyes - 5 species
Günther, 1864
Barred frogs Great barred frog (Mixophyes fasciolatus) M fasciolatus.jpg Mixophyes distribution.png
Myobatrachus - 1 species
Tyler, 1976
Turtle frog Turtle frog (Myobatrachus gouldii) Myobatrachus gouldii.jpg Myobatrachus gouldii distibution.PNG
Neobatrachus - 10 species
Peters, 1863
Stubby frogs Painted frog (Neobatrachus pictus) Sudell's Frog - Neobatrachus sudelli.jpg Neobatrachus.png
Notaden - 4 species
Günther, 1873
Australian spadefoot toads Crucifix toad (Notaden bennettii) Notaden bennettii.JPG Notaden distribution.png
Opisthodon - 2 species
Steindachner, 1867
- Ornate burrowing frog (Opisthodon ornatus) Limnodynastes ornatus.jpg Opisthodon range.PNG
Paracrinia - 1 species
Heyer and Liem, 1976
Haswell's froglet Haswell's froglet (Paracrinia haswelii) Paracrinia haswelli.jpg Paracrinia distribution.png
Philoria - 6 species
Spencer, 1901
Mountain frogs Sphagnum frog (Philoria sphagnicolus) Sphagnum Frog - Philoria sphagnicolus.jpg Philoria distrib.PNG
Pseudophryne - 13 species
Fitzinger, 1843
Toadlets or brood frogs Red-crowned toadlet (Pseudophryne australis) Pseudophryne australis 2.jpg Pseudophryne distribution.png
Rheobatrachus - 2 species
Liem, 1973
Gastric brooding frogs Southern gastric brooding frog (Rheobatrachus silus) Rheobatrachus distribution.png
Spicospina - 1 species
Roberts, Horwitz, Wardell-Johnson, Maxson, and Mahony, 1997
Sunset frog Sunset frog (Spicospina flammocaerulea)- Spicospina distribution.png
Taudactylus - 6 species
Straughan and Lee, 1966
Torrent frogs Eungella torrent frog (Taudactylus eungellensis) Taudactylus eungellensis 1.jpg Taudactylus distrib.PNG
Uperoleia - 24 species
Gray, 1841
Australian toadlets Tyler's toadlet (Uperoleia tyleri) Uperoleia tyleri.jpg Uperoleia range.png
Ranidae - 1 genus, 1 species
GenusCommon namesExample speciesExample photoAustralian range
Rana - 1 species
Linnaeus, 1758
True frogs Australian wood frog (Rana daemeli) Hylarana daemeli.jpg Rana daemeli.png
Salamandridae - 1 genus, 1 species (introduced)
GenusCommon namesExample speciesExample photoAustralian range
Lissotriton - 1 species
Bell, 1839
Common newts Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) Lissotriton vulgaris (Salamandridae) (Smooth Newt) - (adult), Arnhem, the Netherlands.jpg

All numbers in the above table refer to Australian amphibians.


  1. "WAZA - World Association of Zoos and Aquariums - Projects" . Retrieved 2006-12-05.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. Wake, David B. (November 1, 2013). "New 'lost world' could be lost again". New frogs from heavily explored Australia are somewhat surprising (there are now 239 species, with 25 added in the last 10 years).
  3. Barker, J.; Grigg, G.C.; Tyler, M.J. (1995). A Field Guide to Australian Frogs. Surrey Beatty & Sons. ISBN   0-949324-61-2.
  4. 1 2 Tingley, Reid; Weeks, Andrew R.; Smart, Adam S.; van Rooyen, Anthony R.; Woolnough, Andrew P.; McCarthy, Michael A. (2015-01-01). "European newts establish in Australia, marking the arrival of a new amphibian order". Biological Invasions. 17 (1): 31–37. doi:10.1007/s10530-014-0716-z. hdl: 11343/216887 . ISSN   1573-1464.
  5. 1 2 "The cane toad (Bufo marinus) - fact sheet (Department of the Environment and Energy)". Department of the Environment and Energy. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  6. "Vieraella hervsti" . Retrieved 2006-11-18.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. "Amphibian Species of the World - Myobatrachidae Schlegel <em>In</em> Gray, 1850". Archived from the original on 17 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-27.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. "Amphibian Species of the World - Phyllomedusinae Günther, 1858". Archived from the original on 21 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-31.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. "Frogs Australia Network - Frog Declines". Archived from the original on 18 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-08.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. "IUCN Red List - Philoria" . Retrieved 2015-05-19.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Database Search". Archived from the original on 2006-07-04. Retrieved 2006-07-08.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. Tyler, M. J. (1994). Australian Frogs A Natural History. Reed Books. ISBN   0-7301-0468-0.
  13. "Giant Burrowing Frog - profile". Threatened species ... New South Wales. Department of Environment and Conservation (New South Wales). 2005-09-01. Archived from the original on 2006-09-06. Retrieved 2007-05-10.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Database Search - Australian Critically Endangered Anuran" . Retrieved 2006-07-10.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. "Cane toad". PestSmart Connect. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  16. "Surveys for the smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) in south-east Melbourne". Invasive Species Council. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  17. Department of Economic Development, Jobs. "Smooth newt". Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  18. Littlejohn, Murray J.; Roberts, J. Dale; Watson, Graham F.; Davies, Margaret (1993). "7. Family Myobatrachidae" (PDF). Fauna of Australia series, Environment Australia website. Canberra: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2010.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

Related Research Articles

Corroboree frog Name for two species of amphibian

The corroboree frogs are two species of small, poisonous ground dwelling frogs, native to Southern Tablelands of Australia. The two species are the southern corroboree frog and the northern corroboree frog. They are unique among frogs in that they produce their own poison rather than obtain it from their food source as is the case in every other poisonous frog species.

Microhylidae Family of amphibians

The Microhylidae, commonly known as narrow-mouthed frogs, are a geographically widespread family of frogs. The 683 species are in 63 genera and 11 subfamilies, which is the largest number of genera of any frog family.

<i>Taudactylus</i> Genus of amphibians

Taudactylus is a genus of frogs in the family Myobatrachidae. These frogs are endemic to rainforest areas of coastal eastern Australia, most of this genus inhabit fast flowing streams in highland area. Most members of this genus have suffered serious declines, in which the disease chytridiomycosis appears to have played a significant role: T. diurnus is believed to be extinct, while all others except T. liemi are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. These listings are conservative, and it is likely T. acutirostris, presently listed as critically endangered, already is extinct.

Myobatrachidae Family of amphibians

Myobatrachidae, commonly known as Australian ground frogs or Australian water frogs, is a family of frogs found in Australia and New Guinea. Members of this family vary greatly in size, from species less than 1.5 cm (0.59 in) long, to the second-largest frog in Australia, the giant barred frog, at 12 cm (4.7 in) in length. The entire family is either terrestrial or aquatic frogs, with no arboreal species.

Torrent frog Index of animals with the same common name

Torrent frogs are a number of unrelated frogs that prefer to inhabit small rapid-flowing mountain or hill streams with a lot of torrents. They are generally smallish neobatrachians with a greyish-brown and usually darkly mottled back, giving them excellent camouflage among wet rocks overgrown with algae; their well-developed feet make them agile climbers of slippery rocks.

The Amphibians of Western Australia are represented by two families of frogs. Of the 78 species found, most within the southwest, 38 are unique to the state. 15 of the 30 genera of Australian frogs occur; from arid regions and coastlines to permanent wetlands.

Burrowing frog may refer to several fossorial frog species:

Margaret Davies is an Australian herpetologist born on 8 November 1944. She worked at the University of Adelaide studying Australian frogs, retiring in 2002. Initially appointed to a teaching post at the university, she was inspired to research frog taxonomy and their ecology from the 1970s. She identified over 30 new species of frogs during her career. She has contributed to over 120 publications.