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green tree frog

Amphibians of Australia

'Amphibians' are vertebrate animals that breathe through gills as juveniles (tadpoles) and through lungs as adults. .

All native amphibians in Australia are frogs - we have no native toads, newts, salamanders and caecilians (although some of our 'bumpier' frogs are referred to as 'toads' or 'toadlets' and the cane toad has been introduced from South America)

There are four frog families in Australia:
  • two large families (treefrogs and 'southern' frogs) found throughout Australia: their ancestors appear to have been with us when we were part of the southern supercontinent of Gondwana. Most Australian frogs belong to one of these families.
  • two  families (narrow-mouthed and 'typical' frogs) found only in far northern regions: their ancestors probably joined us when Australia drifted close to Asia. We have just a few species
We also have one introduced species of toad

Remember this diagram to recall the two large families and the two much smaller (in Australia at least), northern families:

Narrow-mouthed frogs 'Typical' frogs


'Southern' frogs

Click on the above families for a brief description of each. For further information try our  links for frogs


Hylidae  -  treefrogs and their relatives

Found throughout Australia - many species

Their life history is pretty conventional - they lay eggs in the water, these hatch into tadpoles and later metamorphose (change their form) into adult frogs. Compare this with the 'southern frogs' and narrow-mouthed frogs below.

Most species  belong to the genus Litoria, which includes the true treefrogs and others that don't often climb trees.

Many  have extended toe-pads and finger-pads to assist them in climbing (see picture of the green tree frog to the right ,  also the orange-eyed treefrog pictured at the top right of this page)

sedge frog Litoria fallaxOne of the most commonly-seen treefrogs is the little sedge-frog (see picture to the left), which often sits on reeds or low shrubs, even during the day, and can be brown or green, or a mixture of both. 

Another is the much larger green tree frog, sometimes encountered in gutters, drainpipes,  laundries and toilets, and often heard calling on warm wet evenings.

Emerald-spotted treefrogs have a distinctive 'machine-gun call'

Most frogs are pretty quiet during the cooler months, but the whistling treefrog can often be heard calling throughout winter.

broad-palmed rocket frog Litpria
                  latopalmatastoney creek frog Litoria leseuri
Rocket frogs belong to Litoria but spend most of their time on the ground. They not only have pointed, rocket-shaped noses (see the broad-palmed rocket frog  to the left), but  launch themselves vigorously into the air when disturbed.

Another species that doesn't seem to climb much is the stony creek frog (pictured to right). The male's sides turn bright yellow in breeding season

Cyclorana, a water-holding frogSeveral other species in this family  belong to the genus Cyclorana, like this water-holding frog C. platycephala
 (pictured to left) we found in the southern Queensland outback in early 2010.

Myobatrachidae - the 'southern frogs'

                    barred frog

There are many species in this family  throughout Australia

Pictured to the left is the great barred frog, which gives a deep "Walk, walk-walk" call, mostly at night but sometimes in daylight hours.
Some of the 'southern frogs' have bizarre breeding habits - e.g. the hip pocket frog (the male raises the tadpoles in his 'pockets'),  he gastric brood frog, which, like several of our frogs, seems tragically to now be extinct (see 'amphibian declines' below).

Microhylidae - narrow-mouthed frogs,

This is a  family of small frogs found across most of the world's tropical regions.
The Australian species lay eggs that hatch not into tadpoles but into ready-formed frogs

Ranidae - the 'typical' frogs

Thus family is found throughout most of the world, but only one species in Australia
The ancestors of the narrow-mouthed and 'typical' frogs presumably joined us relatively recently from south-east Asia, which at least partly explains their fart northern distribution, whereas the other two families have been with us since we were part of Gondwana, and have had time to spread throughout the continent

An introduced toad

We unfortunately also have an introduced species of Bufonidae - the cane toad - which has been poisoning native mammals, reptiles and birds that eat it, and has been multiplying into large numbers and spreading across vast areas of eastern Australia since its release in the north Queensland cane fields.

Further information