Main’s frog (Litoria maini)

Also known as: Main's water-holding frog, sheep frog, water-holding frog, western collared frog, western collared-frog
Synonyms: Cyclorana maini
GenusLitoria (1)
SizeMale length: 3.5 - 4.6 cm (2)
Female length: 3.9 - 4.7 cm (2)
Top facts

Main’s frog is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Main’s frog (Litoria maini) is a medium-sized, rotund frog that occupies some of Australia’s harshest desert environments (3). The colour and pattern of its smooth or slightly warty skin is variable, most often being pale tan or dirty yellowish-cream. It has uneven patches of dark brown or green, and its belly is cream-coloured (4).

Main’s frog often has a thin, pale-coloured stripe that runs down the spine (3) (4), and a broad pale stripe or ‘collar’ that runs across the back of the head at the same level as the eardrums (4). This species also has two dark stripes, one on each side of the head, which run from the nostril to the ear (3) (5). The limbs of Main’s frog are similarly coloured to the upperparts but are often duller, and end in unwebbed toes on the forelegs, and webbed toes on the hind legs (4). The male Main’s frog has a spur on each front foot that enables it to hold onto the female during mating (3).

The call of a Main’s frog has been likened to the sound of a sheep bleating (4) (5).

An Australian endemic species, Main’s frog occurs in the arid environments of central Western Australia, southern Northern Territory and northwest South Australia (1). It is also reported to be present on Barrow Island, off the coast of Western Australia (3). 

Main’s frog is normally found in areas with seasonal watercourses, like clay pans and low-lying land where water can accumulate (3). For example, it may be found in flood plains and temporary stream beds (2). Open grassland, sparsely forested land and temporary marshes are also suitable habitats for Main’s frog (5). This species survives in Australia’s harshest arid environments and occurs at elevations of up to 1,000 metres (1).

Although Main’s frog is considered to be a common species (5), it is only seen during the summer wet season (2). This species emerges from the ground en masse to breed following heavy rains (3) (5). A female Main’s frog produces 200 to 1,000 eggs each year, depositing them directly into temporary pools of water that form during rainfall. The tadpoles develop quickly before the water dries up (3).

As water pools shrink, Main’s frog digs a burrow into the ground (3), where it becomes dormant (6). The frog will survive in this state of torpor for a long time, until the next heavy rains (7). Like the other water-holding frogs of Australia, Main’s frog is able to retain large quantities of water within its body when burrowed under the ground, allowing it to survive during periods of drought. It does this by burrowing below the ground and creating a cocoon around its body by shedding its outer layer of skin. Water then builds up inside the cocoon but is unable to evaporate (8).

Main’s frog primarily feeds on insects (3), such as ants and termites, which are abundant during the summer wet season (2).

There are currently no known threats to Main’s frog (1). 

No active conservation measures are currently in place for Main’s frog. However, its range includes many protected areas in Western Australia (1), including Barrow Island (3).

Find out more about Main’s Frog:

More on reptiles and amphibians found on Barrow Island, Australia:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2012)
  2. Tyler, M. and Knight, K. (2011) Field Guide to the Frogs of Australia. Revised Edition. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
  3. Moro, D. and MacAulay, I. (2010) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Barrow Island. Chevron Australia, Perth. Available at:
  4. Vanderduys, E. (2012) Field Guide to the Frogs of Queensland. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
  5. Western Australian Museum - Main’s Frog (November, 2012)
  6. Davies, M. and Withers, P.C. (1993) Morphology and Physiology of the Anura. In: Glasby, C.J., Ross, G.J.B. and Beesley, P.L. (Eds.) Fauna of Australia. Volume 2A: Amphibia and Reptilia. AGPS Press, Canberra, Available at:
  7. Shalan, A., Bradshaw, S., Withers, P., Thompson, G., Bayomy, M., Bradshaw, F. and Stewart, T. (2004) Spermatogenesis and plasma testosterone levels in Western Australian burrowing desert frogs, Cyclorana platycephala, Cyclorana maini, and Neobatrachus sutor, during aestivation. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 136: 90-100.
  8. Badger, D. and Netherton, J. (2004) Frogs. Voyageur Press, Minneapolis.