Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Recovery Plan for the stream-dwelling rainforest frogs of the Eungella region of mid-eastern Queensland 2000-2004 (Northern Queensland Threatened Frogs Recovery Team (NQTFRT), 2001a) [Recovery Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis (Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006o) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Frogs. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.3 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010h) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Extinct (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Rheobatrachus vitellinus [1910]
Family Myobatrachidae:Anura:Amphibia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Mahony, Tyler & Davies, 1984
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images
http://faculty.uca.edu/~benw/biol4402/lecture9/img003.jpg

Scientific name: Rheobatrachus vitellinus

Common name: Northern Gastric-brooding Frog

Other names: Eungella Gastric-brooding Frog, Northern Platypus Frog

The Northern Gastric-brooding Frog was a moderately large, squat frog, pale brown in colour with dark brown blotches on the body and limbs. The species was similar to the Southern Gastric-brooding Frog, Rheobatrachus silus, but was larger (55 mm for males, 80 mm for females). The ventral surface was smooth, white or brown in colour, with bright yellow-orange colouration on the lower abdomen and undersides of the limbs. The skin was granular above. Males developed spinulated, unpigmented, nuptial pads on the first finger. The tympanum (ear cavity) was not visible externally. The species had a blunt snout, free fingers and fully webbed toes (Cogger 2000; Mahony et al. 1984).

The Northern Gastric-brooding Frog was found exclusively in undisturbed rainforest in the Clarke Range (which includes the Eungella National Park), mid-eastern Queensland (about 60 km north-west of Mackay) at altitudes of 400-1000 m (Covacevich & McDonald 1993). The discrete, isolated nature of the Clarke Range suggests that it is unlikely that the species was more extensive prior to its discovery in 1984 (Covacevich & McDonald 1993).

The Northern Gastric-brooding Frog was known from Eungella National Park and Mt Pelion State Forest (Tyler 1997) and was not been recorded on private lands.

The extent of occurrence of this species was last estimated at less than 500 km² (map in McDonald 1990).

The Northern Gastric-brooding Frog was discovered in January 1984 (Mahony et al. 1984), and a monitoring program was immediately instituted by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) to determine if this species was as susceptible to a population decline such as the one that had led to the disappearance of its relative, the Southern Gastric-brooding Frog (NQTFRT 2001a).

A four-day survey for threatened frogs in Eungella National Park, including the Northern Gastric-brooding Frog, was conducted in 1993. Other frog species were found during the search, but not the Northern Gastric-brooding Frog (McNellie & Hero 1994; Tyler 1997). A poster on the stream-dwelling frogs of the Eungella region was prepared by researchers at James Cook University to assist biologists and the general public with identification of the species (Tyler 1997).

Despite continued efforts to locate the species, the Northern Gastric-brooding Frog has not been recorded within Eungella National Park or any other locations since March 1985 (Hero et al. 2002, 2004; Ingram & McDonald 1993; McDonald & Alford 1999; Richards et al. 1993).

Surveys conducted by QPWS in 1984 found that the Northern Gastric-brooding Frog was quite common across the Clark Range, with up to six frogs in a 2 x 5 m creek riffle (McDonald 1990).

The first signs of decline were reported in January 1985, with no individuals located at a site on the edge of its distribution at about 400 m altitude (Winter & McDonald 1986). At higher altitudes, the frogs were common in March 1985, but were not detected in June of that year (McDonald 1990).

The Northern Gastric-brooding Frog was recorded in pristine rainforest where the only form of human disturbance was a poorly defined walking trail. The species occurred in shallow, rocky, broken-water areas where water flowed quickly in cascades, riffles and trickles. The water in these streams was cool and clear, and individuals hid away beneath or between boulders in the current or in backwaters (Tyler 1989). The species was absent from the pools of water found between riffles (McDonald 1990; McNellie & Hero 1994).

The Eungella Day Frog, Taudactylus eungellensis, co-occurred with the Northern Gastric-brooding Frog in rainforest streams in the Clark Range. T. eungellensis also disappeared in 1985, however, a few remnant populations were subsequently discovered (NQTFRT 2001a; Retallick et al. 2004).

Rheobatrachus vitellinus females gavebirth in January to February (McDonald & Tyler 1984; see R. silus for account of reproduction in similar species). The species brooded its young in its stomach. It is assumed that females swallowed their fertilised eggs or embryonic tadpoles. The tadpoles would excrete an enzyme that inhibited their mother's gastric digestion so they could then complete their development in her stomach. Once the tadpoles had fully developed into metamorphs (froglets), the mother would regurgitate them from her mouth (Winter & McDonald 1986). The tadpole of this species has not been described (Leong et al. 1986; McDonald & Tyler 1984).

In the only documented case observed, 22 metamorphs were brooded in the stomach of one female (McDonald & Tyler 1984). Upon collection, the stomach of the female was reported to be greatly distended and during road transport the individual began to give birth. The birth lasted approximately 34 hours. The young were born underwater, though it is not known whether this underwater birth was a natural phenomenon or a consequence of the conditions in which the female was held (McDonald & Tyler 1984).

The Northern Gastric-brooding Frog was both an aquatic and stream edge feeder. The species' diet included small crayfish, caddisfly larvae, terrestrial and aquatic beetles and the sympatric frog species, the Eungella day Frog, Taudactylus eungellensis (Winter and McDonald 1986).

During rain, individuals were frequently observed on exposed rocks in and adjacent to a stream (McDonald 1990).

The most commonly used techniques for sampling frog populations include visual encounter surveys, acoustic sampling (including audio strip transects and static call sampling), night driving, pitfall trapping, and larval sampling. The Northern Gastric-brooding Frog was surveyed using visual and acoustic sampling. Its call consisted of several loud staccato notes repeated in a long series (K. McDonald, unpublished in NQTFRT 2001a). Males were heard calling at night from September to December (Winter & McDonald 1986).

Systematic comparisons of the effectiveness of different sampling techniques have rarely been carried out (Holloway 1997; Parris 1999). A collective approach using the results of studies of a single species provides a guide for the effectiveness of each technique relative to general biological traits of different frog species. Threatened Australian frog species may be surveyed according to the Survey guidelines for Australia’s threatened frogs (DEWHA 2010h).

The reason(s) for the Northern Gastric-brooding Frog's sudden decline remains unknown. McDonald (1990) found no obvious evidence that seasonal rarity, over-collecting, predation, drought, floods, habitat destruction, disease, heavy parasite loads or stress due to handling for data collection were responsible for the population declines. It was presumed that the decline, which was first documented in 1985, was a natural population fluctuation and that remaining individuals had retreated to obscure refuges (McDonald 1990; Winter & McDonald 1986). The extent of such population fluctuations is unknown, but there is evidence of large fluctuations in numbers of other Australian frogs (McDonald 1990).

The amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, may have caused Northern Gastric-brooding Frog (NQTFRT 2001a) and the fungus has been identified in the co-occurring species, the Eungella Day Frog (Speare & Berger 2005). This highly virulent, fungal pathogen is capable of causing sporadic deaths in some populations, and 100 percent mortality in other populations (DEH 2006o). Chytridiomycosis, the infectious disease caused by B. dendrobatidis, is affecting amphibians worldwide. It is suspected to be responsible for the extinction of three other stream-dwelling, direct-developing frog species (i.e. the offspring does not develop aquatically but inside the mother) (Stuart et al. 2008 cited in Penner et al 2013):

  • the closely related Southern Gastric-brooding Frog, Rheobatrachus silus, and the Southern Day Frog, Taudactylus diurnis, of south-eastern Queensland, and
  • the Miles' Robber Frog, Craugastor milesi, discovered in Hondurus, South America, in 1933.

Management documents relevant to stream-dwelling frogs and, formerly, the Northern Gastric-brooding Frog, can be found at the start of the profile.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Eungella, the land of cloud. Australian Natural History. 22:39-43. (Winter, J. & K. McDonald, 1986) [Journal].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Presence of pathogens and resulting disease Recovery Plan for the stream-dwelling rainforest frogs of the Eungella region of mid-eastern Queensland 2000-2004 (Northern Queensland Threatened Frogs Recovery Team (NQTFRT), 2001a) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes in hydrology including habitat drainage Recovery Plan for the stream-dwelling rainforest frogs of the Eungella region of mid-eastern Queensland 2000-2004 (Northern Queensland Threatened Frogs Recovery Team (NQTFRT), 2001a) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to hydrology including construction of dams/barriers Recovery Plan for the stream-dwelling rainforest frogs of the Eungella region of mid-eastern Queensland 2000-2004 (Northern Queensland Threatened Frogs Recovery Team (NQTFRT), 2001a) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate prescribed regimes and/or vegetation management to control fire regimes Eungella, the land of cloud. Australian Natural History. 22:39-43. (Winter, J. & K. McDonald, 1986) [Journal].
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Rheobatrachus vitellinus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ws) [Internet].

Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia - 6th edition. Sydney, NSW: Reed New Holland.

Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2006o). Threat Abatement Plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/chytrid.html.

Covacevich, J.A. & K.R. McDonald (1993). Distribution and conservation of frogs and reptiles of Queensland rainforests. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 34:189-199.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2010h). Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Frogs. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.3. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: DEWHA. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-frogs.html.

Hero, J-M, McDonald, K., Alford, R., Cunningham, M. and Retallick, R. (2004). Rheobatrachus vitellinus In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. [Online]. www.iucnredlist.org.

Hero, J-M., H.B. Hines, E. Meyer, C. Morrison & C. Streatfeild (2002). New records of "declining" frogs in Queensland (April 1999). In: R. Nattrass, ed. Frogs in the Community - Proceedings of the Brisbane Conference 13 - 14 February 1999. Qld Museum.

Holloway, S.E. (1997). Survey protocols for the streambreeding frogs of far East Gippsland: the implication of habitat modelling and an assessment of techniques. Unpublished M. Sc.Thesis. Canberra: University of Canberra.

Ingram, G.J. & K.R. McDonald (1993). An update on the decline of Queenslands frogs. In: Lunney, D. & D. Ayers, eds. Herpetology in Australia: a diverse discipline. Page(s) 297-303. Sydney, NSW: Royal Zoological Society of NSW.

Leong, A.S.Y., M.J. Tyler and D.J.C. Shearman (1986). Gastric Brooding - a New Form in a Recently Discovered Australian Frog of the Genus Rheobatrachus. Australian Journal of Zoology . 34(2) :205---209-.

Mahony, M., M.J. Tyler & M. Davies (1984). A new species of the genus Rheobatrachus (Anura: Leptodactylidae) from Queensland. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 108:155-162.

McDonald, K. & R. Alford (1999). A review of declining frogs in northern Queensland. In: A. Campbell, ed. Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. Page(s) 14-22. Canberra: Environment Australia.

McDonald, K.R. (1990). Rheobatrachus Liem and Taudactylus Straughan & Lee (Anura: Leptodactylidae) in Eungella National Park, Queensland: distribution and decline. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 114:187-194.

McDonald, K.R. & M.J. Tyler (1984). Evidence of gastric brooding in the Australian Leptodactylid frog Rheobatrachus vitellinus. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 108:226.

McNellie, M. & J-M. Hero (1994). Mission amphibian: the search for the missing rainforest frogs of Eungella. Wildlife Australia. 31:22-23.

Northern Queensland Threatened Frogs Recovery Team (NQTFRT) (2001a). Recovery Plan for the stream-dwelling rainforest frogs of the Eungella region of mid-eastern Queensland 2000-2004. [Online]. QPWS. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/eungella-frog/index.html.

Parris, K.M. (1999). Amphibian surveys in forests and woodlands. Contemporary Herpetology. 1. [Online]. Published online. Available from: http://www.contemporaryherpetology.org/ch/1999/1/index.htm.

Penner, J., G.B. Adum, M.T. McElroy, T. Doherty-Bone, M. Hirschfeld, L. Sandberger, C. Weldon, A.A. Cunningham et al. (2013). West Africa - A Safe Haven for Frogs? A Sub-Continental Assessment of the Chytrid Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) . PLoS ONE . 8(2):e56236. [Online]. www.plosone.org.

Retallick, R.W.R., H. McCallum and R. Speare (2004). Endemic Infection of the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus in a Frog Community Post-Decline. PLoS Biol . 2(11):1965-1971.

Richards, S.J., K.R. McDonald & R.A. Alford (1993). Declines in populations of Australia's endemic tropical rainforest frogs. Pacific Conservation Biology. 1:66-77.

Speare, R. & L. Berger (2005). Chytridiomycosis in amphibians in Australia. [Online]. Townsville, Queensland: Rainforest CRC & School of Public Health and Tropical Medicin, James Cook University. Available from: http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/phtm/PHTM/frogs/chyspec.htm.

Tyler, M.J. (1989). Australian Frogs. Page(s) 153-162. Victoria: Penguin Books Australia Ltd.

Tyler, M.J. (1997). The Action Plan for Australian Frogs. [Online]. Wildlife Australia. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/frogs/index.html.

Winter, J. & K. McDonald (1986). Eungella, the land of cloud. Australian Natural History. 22:39-43.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Rheobatrachus vitellinus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 22 Aug 2014 00:33:16 +1000.