Corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAmphibia
OrderAnura
FamilyMyobatrachidae
GenusPseudophryne (1)
SizeLength: 2.5 - 3 cm (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR A2ace+3ace; B2ab(ii,iii,iv,v); C1) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1).

The corroboree frog is incredibly distinctive with its bright yellow and black striped skin (2). The upper surface has a rough texture whilst the belly is smooth and either black and yellow or black and white (3). Females are larger in size than males (4) and, unusually, neither sex has webbed toes (3). Calls are similar to those of other members of the genus, consisting of a grating 'ark' or 'squelch' sound (3). 'Corroboree' is an aboriginal word for a gathering or meeting, traditionally the attendees are adorned with yellow markings not unlike those of this rare frog (10).

Endemic to Australia and found only within the Mount Kosciusko National Park area of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. This species is found at heights of between 1,300 and 1,760 metres above sea level (5).

Adults are found in sub-alpine woodland and tall heath (6), usually under logs or associated with dense ground cover (4). Breeding occurs in more moist environments however, in pools within bogs, short wet heath or wet tussock grassland, usually associated with sphagnum moss (6).

This species has a very unusual lifecycle. During the breeding season, which runs throughout the summer, males build chamber nests within the grasses and moss of their breeding habitat (3). Males then compete for females via song. Whilst the female is laying around 26 eggs within the males' nest (3), he will grasp her and deposit sperm directly onto the eggs (7). Tadpoles develop but remain within the protective egg coat for up to 7 months until they are flooded by the autumn rains or the spring thaw (7). Juveniles then emerge and metamorphose into the adult form, remaining within the moist vegetation for a few months (4). At this time, adults migrate back to the dry heathland of the winter habitat (4).

These frogs feed mainly on small invertebrates such as ants (4). It has recently been discovered that they are capable of producing poisonous alkaloids that are then secreted from the skin as a defence against predation (8).

There has been a recent decline in this previously abundant species, which has now been lost from as much as 68% of its former range (5). The unusual life cycle of the corroboree frog makes it particularly vulnerable; only one small clutch is laid in a year and tadpoles have a long development time (4). The precise causes of this sudden decline are unclear but a number of factors may be involved, including habitat destruction by ski resort development and trampling by humans and livestock (6). However, it is now widely accepted that chytrid fungus is a major (if not the primary) cause of their continuous decline (9).

A Recovery Plan for the corroboree frog has been published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales (5). This plan identifies the urgent need for more population data and investigation into the cause of the continuing decline in numbers. Research into captive breeding techniques will also be undertaken (5). In the short term, the plan aims to halt the precipitous decline of this species and then work to restore this colourful frog to much of its former range (5).

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (2001) Approved Recovery Plan for the Southern Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree). NSW NPWS, Hurstville NSW:
http://www.ea.gov.au

To learn more about the Corroboree frog and its conservation visit:

Amphibian Ark:
http://www.amphibianark.org/pseudophryne-corroboree

Authenticated (30/6/03) by Chris Banks. Curator of Herpetofauna, Melbourne Zoo.
http://www.zoo.org.au

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2004)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  3. Frog and Tadpole Study Group of New South Wales (August, 2002)
    http://www.fats.org.au
  4. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Threatened Species Information (August, 2002)
    http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/Home
  5. Project Corroboree (July, 2003)
    http://frogs.org.au/corroboree/index.html
  6. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. (2001) Approved Recovery Plan for the Southern Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree). NSW NPWS, Hurstville NSW. Available at:
    http://www.ea.gov.au
  7. WWF Australia (August, 2002)
    http://www.wwf.org.au/
  8. ABC Natural History Unit (September, 2002)
    http://www.abc.net.au/storm/exposure/frog.htm
  9. National Geographic (June, 2003)
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/05/0517_020517_toxicfrog.html
  10. Banks, C. (2003) Pers. comm.