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 Vulnerable
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Litoria littlejohni (Littlejohn's Tree Frog) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008v) [Conservation Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans 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 Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:Littlejohn's Tree Frog - profile (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2005hb) [Internet].
NSW:Threatened Species Management Information Circular No.6 - Hygiene protocol for the control of disease in frogs (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2008b) [Information Sheet].
NSW:Littlejohn's Tree Frog - endangered species listing. NSW Scientific Committee - final determination (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS), 2000y) [Internet].
NSW:Predation by Gambusia holbrooki - The Plague Minnow (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS), 2003i) [State Threat Abatement Plan].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): August 2014 list)
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): May 2014 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Least Concern (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Endangered (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Litoria littlejohni [64733]
Family Hylidae:Anura:Amphibia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author White, Whitford & Mahony, 1994
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Littlejohn's Tree Frog is a member of the Litoria ewingii species complex (Barker et al. 1995). Originally included in Hyla jervisiensis (now Litoria jervisiensis), it was re-described in 1994 as Litoria littlejohni (White et al. 1994).

Littlejohn's Tree Frog is similar in appearance to the Jervis Bay Tree Frog, Litoria jervisiensis, from which it may be distinguished by its broad head, absence of a white glandular stripe from below the eye through the angle of the mouth, and its distinctive call (a series of 6 to 14 rapidly repeated low, drawn-out whistles). Its snout-vent length is 55 to 60 mm (Cogger 2000).

Littlejohn's Tree Frog Tadpoles are black or very dark grey with dark grey bellies. Tadpoles grow to 65 mm in length. They can be distinguished from other tadpoles of the Litoria ewingii complex by their large size and dark colour, and from Limnodynastes peronii, a sympatric species with large, dark tadpoles, by their body shape and behaviour (Anstis 2002).

Littlejohn's Tree Frog is confined to eastern New South Wales and north-east Victoria. The Frog occurs in scattered locations between the Watagan Mountains, New South Wales, to Buchan in Victoria (White et al. 1994). Despite its very large distribution there are very few records of Littlejohn's Tree Frog, and it is probably the least known and least frequently encountered frog in New South Wales (Hero et al. 2002).

Daly and Craven (2009) monitored 13 sites with for one night a year between 2001-06. The 250 m long transects were monitored once a year for 30 minutes between late August and October (Daly & Craven 2007).

The number of individuals of Littlejohn's Tree Frog is likely to be very small, with most populations containing four or fewer calling males. On study observed 339 frogs at 12 sites over a five year monitoring period in Morton National Park (NP), Parma Creek Nature Reserve and Jerrawangala NP (Daly & Craven 2007).

Only two of 47 records report 10 or more calling males, which is low compared to other rare frog species (Lemckert 2004). One study observed more than 10 frogs on five occasions (Daly & Craven 2007).

The following table presents site details and detection rates during a five year monitoring period. Fluctuations have been attributed to drier conditions (2002-06) and a January 2002 fire that burnt 12 of the sites (Daly & Craven 2007):

Site Altitude Vegetation 2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 Site total
Flat Rock Creek 180 Hard-leaved Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus racemosa), Golden Banksia (Banksia ericifolia) 13 3 8 4 9 37
Bollerang Creek 160 Hard-leaved Scribbly Gum, Golden Banksia 8 4 4 4(1) 5 25
Parma Creek a 90 Hard-leaved Scribbly Gum, Golden Banksia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Parma Creek b 130 Hard-leaved Scribbly Gum, Golden Banksia 9 1 1 6 4 21
Rixon Creek 640 Sydney Peppermint (E. piperita), Hard-leaved Scribbly Gum, Scented Paperbark (Melaleuca squarrosa) 6 8 7 10 10 41
unnamed creek 640 Sydney Peppermint, Scented Paperbark, Golden Banksia, Finger Hakea (Hakea dactyloides) 6(1) 5 9 5 17 42
Tianjara Creek a 600 Sydney Peppermint, Scented Paperbark, Gleichenia spp. 9 10(1) 6 7 8 40
Boolijah Creek 540 Sydney Peppermint, Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) 2 0 0 1 0 3
Tianjara Creek b 500 Sydney Peppermint, White Kunzea (Kunzea ambigua), Golden Banksia, Leptospermum spp. 15(1) 6 9 14 12(2) 56
Parma Creek c 170 Hard-leaved Scribbly Gum, Golden Banksia 9 2 7 2 1 21
Parma Creek d 160 Hard-leaved Scribbly Gum, Grey Gum (E. punctata), Golden Banksia 9(1) 2 4 2 2 19
Gnatilia Creek 370 Sydney Peppermint, Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera), Callicoma serratifolia 7 2 1 1 2 13
Boolijong Creek 310 Sydney Peppermint, C. serratifolia, M. linariifolia, Golden Banksia 7 3 2 6(2) 3 21
    Total 100 46 58 62 73 339

Littlejohn's Tree Frog is known to inhabit forest, coastal woodland and heath from 100 to 950 m above sea level (White & Ehmann 1997), but the species is not associated with any specific vegetation types (Lemckert 2004).

Breeding habitat has been variously reported as rocky streams and semi-permanent dams (Barker et al. 1995), still water in dams, ditches, isolated pools and flooded hollows (Hero et al.1991), dams, creeks and lagoons (Griffiths 1997), semi-permanent or permanent dams, ponds and creeks (Anstis 2002) and temporary pools when sufficient run-off water was available (White et al. 1994). White and Ehmann (1997) give a more broad breeding habitat description of temporary pools in forested areas, deep permanent pools of slow creeks (in hanging swamps) or slow, rock-lined rivers, and in fire dams within undisturbed natural vegetation. Lemckert (2004) presents evidence that the species has been recorded calling at temporary pools, permanent ponds and streams, and therefore that all of the above habitat types are potential breeding habitat.

Non-breeding habitat is unknown. Other species in the Litoria ewingii species complex appear to spend their time in leaf litter and low shrubs and this may be the same for Littlejohn's Tree Frog. However they have well-developed suckers on their toes which suggests they could be inclined to climb (Hero et al. 2002).

Analysis of presence absence data in the Watagan Mountains area, found that the species is more likely to occur in areas with a grass-free, moist, sunny areas that are relatively flat (Lemckert 2010). However, these variables are too broad to accurately predict Littlejohn's Tree Frog presence based on a specific water body, and the species is absent at many suitable sites (Lemckert 2010).

Calling activity has been variously reported as April to October (Barker et al. 1995), August to January (Hero et al. 1991), during the cooler months (Griffiths 1997), late winter and spring (Anstis 2002) and at any time of year except mid-winter (White et al.1994). Lemckert (2004) presents evidence that calling can occur at any time of year with a possible peak from February to April.

Males call from elevated positions on vegetation beside or above water. Clusters of up to 60 eggs are attached to submerged twigs, stems or branches, often near the banks of still pools in clear, slowly flowing streams. Hatching occurs seven to eight days after laying. Metamorphosis occurs mainly in December and January. Larval life span of a group of captive tadpoles was 124 days (Anstis 2002).

The species often shelters in deep litter (Lemckert 2010).

Tadpoles have been observed feeding on vegetation, sediment and surface matter as well as on jelly capsules of egg clusters of their own species and of the Whistling Tree-frog, Litoria verreauxii verreauxii (Anstis 2002).

Adult Littlejohn's Tree Frog presumably eat invertebrates, but their diet has not been investigated (Hero et al. 2002).

The methods that have successfully been used in the past to survey Littlejohn's Tree Frog are visual encounter surveys, call surveys, egg mass surveys and larval sampling (UC 2003).

Call surveys should be conducted during the known calling period of Littlejohn's Tree Frog, between August and January (White & Ehmann 1997). However, Littlejohn's Tree Frogs have a sporadic calling habit. Lemckert regularly monitored four sites within 5 km of each other and, while calling frogs were present at at least one of the sites 60% of the time, he did not detected calling at all four sites simultaneously and only twice have males been calling at three of the four sites. The chances of detecting calling males of this species during any "standard" two-night survey are limited, and that not detecting the Frog at a particular site even when they can be heard calling nearby is not a clear indication of its absence (Lemckert (in prep).

Egg mass surveys may be effective as this species has clearly visible eggs. The larval period of Littlejohn's Tree Frog is from August to November (White & Ehmann 1997). Tadpoles have been recorded in still water (from dams to flooded ditches) (ARC 2005) or slowly moving pools in creeks, in slightly acidic water (Recsei 1996). Lemckert (in prep.) cautions that the species' apparently broad habitat requirements make targeting of likely breeding sites difficult, and that too narrow a perception of the species requirements may be causing surveys to exclude sites that support the species.

Hero et al. (2002) suggest searching for tadpoles may be a better option for surveys.

White and Ehmann (1997) report Littlejohn's Tree Frog as only occurring in relatively undisturbed forested areas with infrequent natural fires and unpolluted, non-turbid water. They consider Littlejohn's Tree Frog to be very sensitive to habitat changes, and propose that increased bushfire frequency may have caused the species to disappear from National Parks around Sydney.

Lemckert (2004) argues many of the sites where the species persists have been disturbed by logging or have been partially cleared, and that the species is therefore not particularly sensitive to disturbance. However there are no records of Littlejohn's Tree Frog from areas with 100% clearing so disturbances that involve total land clearance are considered a threat to the species (Lemckert 2004).

The introduction of Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) and Yabby (Cherax destructor) into streams could reduce recrutement success (Daly & Craven 2007).

Another potential threat to the species may be disease. Chytridiomycosis is an infectious disease affecting amphibians worldwide. The disease has been recorded in four regions of Australia, namely the east coast, south-west Western Australia, Adelaide, and more recently Tasmania. This highly virulent fungal pathogen of amphibians is capable at the minimum of causing sporadic deaths in some populations, and 100 per cent mortality in other populations (DEH 2006o).

The Department of the Environment and Heritage has developed a threat abatement plan which aims to :

  • Prevent amphibian populations or regions that are currently chytridiomycosis-free from becoming infected by preventing further spread of the amphibian chytrid within Australia,
  • Decrease the impact of infection with the amphibian chytrid fungus on populations that are currently infected.

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
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Litoria littlejohni in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nj) [Internet].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat loss, modification and degradation due to timber harvesting Litoria littlejohni in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nj) [Internet].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Ecosystem Degradation:Decline in habitat quality Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Litoria littlejohni (Littlejohn's Tree Frog) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008v) [Conservation Advice].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Litoria littlejohni (Littlejohn's Tree Frog) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008v) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Presence of pathogens and resulting disease Litoria littlejohni in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nj) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Litoria littlejohni in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nj) [Internet].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Litoria littlejohni in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006nj) [Internet].

Amphibian Research Centre (2005). Frogs of Australia: Littlejohn's Tree Frog. [Online]. Available from:

Anstis, M. (2002). Tadpoles of South-eastern Australia. A guide with keys. Sydney, NSW: Reed New Holland.

Barker, J., G.C. Grigg. & M.J. Tyler (1995). A Field Guide to Australian Frogs. Chipping Norton, NSW: Surrey Beatty & Sons.

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:

Daly, G. & P. Craven (2007). Monitoring populations of Heath Frog Litoria littlejohni in the Shoalhaven region on the south coast of New South Wales. Australian Zoologist. 34(2):165-172.

Griffiths, K. (1997). Frogs and Reptiles of the Sydney Region. University of New South Wales Press, Kensington.

Hero, J-M, G. Gillespie, F. Lemckert, P. Robertson & M. Littlejohn (2002). Litoria littlejohni Heath Frog. AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. [Online]. Berkeley, California. Available from:

Hero, J-M., M. Littlejohn & G. Marantelli (1991). Frogwatch Field Guide to Victorian Frogs. [Online]. Melbourne, Victoria: Department of Conservation and Environment. Available from:

Lemckert, F. (2004). The biology and conservation status of the heath frog Litoria littlejohni. Herpetofauna. 34(2).

Lemckert, F. (2010). Habitat relationships and presence of the threatened heath frog Litoria littlejohni (Anura: Hylidae) in central New South Wales, Australia. Endangered Species Research. 11:271-78.

Recsei, J. (1996). Heleioporus australiacus, eastern owl frog. In: Ehmann, H, ed. Threatened Frogs of New South Wales: Habitats, Status and Conservation. Page(s) 55-59. Frog and Tadpole Study Group of NSW Inc, Sydney South, Australia.

University of Canberra (UC) (2003). Survey Standards for Australian Frogs. Canberra, Australia: Applied Ecology Research Group, UC.

White, A.W. & H. Ehmann (1997c). Heath Frog, Litoria littlejohni. In: H. Ehmann, ed. Threatened Frogs of New South Wales: Habitats, Status and Conservation. Page(s) 206-212. Frog & Tadpole Study Group of NSW, Sydney.

White, A.W., D. Whitford & M. Mahoney (1994). A new species of Litoria (Anura: Hylidae) from eastern Australia. Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of NSW. 114(1):3-10.

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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). Litoria littlejohni in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Sat, 20 Sep 2014 08:35:31 +1000.