Torrent tree frog (Litoria nannotis)

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Torrent tree frog on rock
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Torrent tree frog fact file

Torrent tree frog description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAmphibia
OrderAnura
FamilyHylidae
GenusLitoria (1)

The torrent tree frog is a moderately large, robust species of Australian frog, which at first glance possesses only the typical olive-green skin characteristic of many frog species. On closer inspection, however, it can be distinguished by the extensive dark mottling found across the back and an attractive metallic blue sheen spanning the sides of the body. Additionally, the underbelly is white or cream, the armpits and the groin flesh coloured, and the throat brown. The skin on the back and underbelly has a granular surface; certain individuals possessing small warts scattered across their back. Finger and toe discs are large, with fully webbed toes but only basal webbing on the fingers (4). Males have well developed nuptial pads with small spines on their thumbs and chests so they can cling to females during breeding and avoid being swept off by the turbulent waters of their habitat. Males lack a vocal sac, and the mating call has been described as a slow growl-like sound that is difficult to hear above the sound of flowing water (5).

Also known as
Australian waterfall frog, waterfall frog.
Size
Male snout to vent length: 31 – 52 mm (2)
Female snout to vent length: 48 – 59 mm (2)
Male weight: 4.2 – 12 g (2)
Female weight: 7.2 – 16 g (2)
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Torrent tree frog biology

Unusually for frogs, the torrent tree frog is active during the day as well as at night. It does, however, remain close to the protective shelter of the stream during the day, only venturing into more exposed positions in the surrounding vegetation at night (8). In contrast to most stream-breeding frog species that live in adjacent forests, the stream is the primary habitat for both males and females throughout the year, with adults and juveniles noted on several occasions to form small aggregations (four to six individuals) amongst large boulders. Gravid females and males with nuptial pads are found all year round, and it is thought that breeding is possible at any time of the year. Un-pigmented eggs are laid in gelatinous egg masses under rocks in water (1). Adult torrent tree frogs are opportunists with a generalist diet, feeding on both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates (8).

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Torrent tree frog range

Litoria nannotis was formerly found throughout the Wet Tropics Bioregion of north Queensland, from Paluma to Cooktown, but is now absent from most upland sites (4).

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Torrent tree frog habitat

The torrent tree frog is a stream dwelling species, inhabiting areas of rainforest where there is fast-flowing water, cascades and waterfalls at altitudes of between 180 – 1,300 m above sea level (6). Normally found on boulders near waterfalls, the torrent tree frog is occasionally seen amongst vegetation next to streams (7).

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Torrent tree frog status

Classified as Endangered (EN A2ae) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1), and as Endangered on both the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Torrent tree frog threats

The reason for the decline of this frog is most likely due to the disease caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) (9). Habitat destruction poses no threat, as the Wet Tropics Heritage Area of Queensland that the torrent tree frog inhabits has been protected and undisturbed since 1988 (1) (7). The effects of drought, floods, and pollution have also been ruled out as contributors to the decline (1).

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Torrent tree frog conservation

A recovery plan for this species has been developed (10). As the cause of its decline is uncertain the recovery plan focuses on protection of remaining populations and their habitat, population monitoring, and research into its ecology and the disease. Indeed, unless the determinants of this decline are accurately identified and appropriately dealt with, the future of this species cannot be safeguarded.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

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Authentication

Authenticated (09/02/2006) by Harry Hines, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Australia.
http://www.epa.qld.gov.au

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Glossary

Gravid
Carrying developing young or eggs.
Nuptial pad
In frogs, a horny or thickened pad on each thumb of the male, which assists the male during mating in grasping the female during the sexual embrace.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2004)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. McDonald, K.R. and Alford, R.A. (1999) A Review of Declining Frogs in Northern Queensland. In: Campbell, A. (Ed) Declines and Disappearances of Australian frogs. Environment Australia - Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.
  3. Department of the Environment and Heritage. (2006) Litoria nannotis in Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra. Available at:
    http://www.deh.gov.au/sprat
  4. Queensland Government – Environmental Protection Agency / Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (June, 2004)
    http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/threatened_plants_and_animals/endangered/waterfall_frog
  5. Frogs Australia Network – Australian Frog Database (September, 2005)
    http://frogsaustralia.net.au/frogs/display.cfm?frog_id=167
  6. Cunningham, M. (2002) Identification and evolution of Australian torrent tree frogs. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 48(1): 93 - 102.
  7. Hodgkinson, S. and Hero, J.M. (2001) Daily behaviour and microhabitat use of the Waterfall frog, Litoria nannotis, in Tully Gorge, Eastern Australia. Unknown Publisher, Unknown Location.
  8. Amphibiaweb (September, 2005)
    http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/amphib_query?where-genus=Litoria&where-species=nannotis
  9. Department of the Environment and Heritage – Key Threatening Processes - Chytridiomycosis due to the amphibian chytrid fungus (February, 2006)
    http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/ktp/frog-fungus.html
  10. Department of the Environment and Heritage - Recovery plan (February, 2006)
    http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/rainforest-frogs/index.html
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Image credit

Torrent tree frog on rock  
Torrent tree frog on rock

© Jodi Rowley

Jodi Rowley
jodi.rowley@gmail.com

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