National recovery plan for Stream Frogs of South-east Queensland 2001-2005

Prepared by Harry Hines
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
and the South-east Queensland Threatened Frogs Recovery Team, 2002

Appendix 1. Species Profiles


Fleay's Barred-frog Mixophyes fleayi Corben and Ingram 1987

Description

A large fossorial frog (snout-vent length 63-89 mm) with a steeply sloped, blunt snout. The dorsal surface is light to dark brown with indistinct darker marbling. A dark brown Y-shaped vertebral band with irregular edges starts between the eyes and extends to the vent, sometimes breaking up into a series of blotches along the mid-line. The sides are grey-brown, fading to yellow posteriorly and overlaid by a series of black spots. There is an irregular dark band running from the nostrils through the eye to a point behind the tympanum. There is a dark purple patch beneath the eye. The upper lip is usually mottled brown. The ventral surfaces of the body and limbs are typically yellow, the throat and underside of the thighs may be speckled with brown. Vocal sac present in males. The soles and palms are black.

The thighs are grey-brown, with 7-8 narrow, black cross-bands. The fingers are unwebbed, slightly expanded at the tips. The toes are half-webbed, possessing webbing to the base of the terminal phalanges of the first, second, and fifth toes, while two phalanges of the third toe, and those of the fourth toe are free of web but fringed. Palmar tubercles are rounded, well developed; inner metatarsal tubercle as long as first toe, outer metacarpal more elongate and about half the size of the inner.

Males develop dark brown nuptial pads on the prepollex, first and sometimes second finger. The pupil is vertical. In adults the upper part of the iris may be straw-brown through light blue to silvery-white. In sub-adults the upper third of the iris is flame orange. The tympanum is large and oval-shaped, sloping backwards. (Barker et al. 1995, Cogger 1996, Corben and Ingram 1987, Meyer et al. 2001).

Call

Mixophyes fleayi has two distinct calls, a throaty "ok-ok-ok-ok-ok-ok" made by solitary males, and a long, rasping "arrrrrrrr", or growling call given in chorus (Corben and Ingram 1987).

Reproduction

During favourable conditions, the species can form aggregations from late winter to early autumn, with breeding recorded in all months from July to March (Corben and Ingram 1987, QPWS unpublished data). Egg laying takes place in shallow riffle zones of streams. The female lays the eggs as a single layer on bedrock in flat, shallow sections of the stream, or forms a small depression amongst submerged leaf litter or gravel, and embeds the eggs in the walls of this 'nest' (Knowles, R., Thumm, K., Hines, H., Mahony, M. and Cunningham, M. unpublished data). Tadpoles are present year round at some sites (QPWS unpublished data).

Tadpole

The tadpole has been described by Meyer et al. 2001. Tadpoles are large, up to 100mm in total length. The body is fusiform and the tail length is twice that of body; eyes dorsolateral; uniform grey-brown above (later stage larvae may develop dark spots and splotches); underside silver-grey with silver-blue sheen; intestinal mass fully obscured, heart and gills barely visible; thick muscular tail; tail low-finned; fins opaque, heavily stippled with scattered dark spots/splotches; tail musculature light-brown/ grey with dark spots/splotches; limb buds and vent tube lie within translucent 'skirt' at base of tail; spiracle sinistral, opening lateroventrally; vent tube dextral; mouth sub-terminal; oral disc large, surrounded by papillae; labial tooth row formula 10(2-10) / 3(1).

Habitat

Adults may be found in leaf litter and along watercourses in rainforest and adjoining wet sclerophyll forests. Males call from rocks in streams or from pools at the margins of these streams (Corben and Ingram 1987) or from the forest floor (QPWS unpublished data). Females have been located well away from streams, over hundreds of metres from known breeding sites (QPWS unpublished data).

Distribution

Disjunctly distributed in wet forests over a restricted range from the Conondale Range south-east Queensland (26° 43´S 152° 35´E), south to Trynney Creek in the Richmond Range in north-east New South Wales (28° 48´S, 152° 44´E) (Hines et al. 1999, M. Graham NSWNPWS pers. comm.) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Distribution of Fleay's barred-frog
Figure 1. Distribution of Fleay's barred-frog Mixophyes fleayi.

Current distribution

Corben (in McDonald 1991) reported that M. fleayi declined in the Conondale Range in the late 1970s. Ingram and McDonald (1993) reported that it had not been seen in the Conondale Range since the summer of 1990-91. Since Ingram and McDonald's review, targeted surveys for M. fleayi have been undertaken and summarised by Hines et al. (1999) and Goldingay et al. (1999). A population was found in the upper reaches of three neighbouring streams in the Conondale Range, despite surveys of historical sites downstream that failed to locate the species. In Queensland other populations are currently known from the Lamington plateau and the northern section of Main Range, the Mount Barney area and Currumbin and Tallebudgera Creeks below Springbrook Plateau. There have been no records of M. fleayi from the extensively developed Mt Tamborine area since 1976, despite targeted surveys. There is a museum specimen of M. fleayi collected from the Bunya Mountains in 1970 (Hines, in press). Recent targeted surveys there have failed to locate M. fleayi.

In New South Wales the species is known from, Yabbra and Tooloom Scrubs, Mt Warning (Breakfast Creek), Terania and Tuntable Creek catchments in the Nightcap Range, and Levers Plateau, Sheepstation and Brindle creeks in the Border Ranges. Over two summer seasons there were no sightings of M. fleayi at Terania Creek despite intensive searches, and prior to this only very low numbers had been observed. Subsequently, the species was located at that site during targeted surveys in early 1999 (Goldingay et al. 1999).

Mixophyes fleayi has disappeared from some sites in Queensland and possibly from some sites in New South Wales. Whether populations have declined at other sites is difficult to assess, due to a lack of historical records of relative abundance. The very low numbers recorded from many well surveyed sites suggest that declines in abundance may have occurred.

Threats

The reasons for declines and disappearances of M. fleayi populations are not known. Large areas of this species' habitat have been and continue to be degraded by feral animals (e.g. feral pigs in the Conondale Range), domestic stock (Main Range) and invasion of weeds. Upstream clearing, timber harvesting and urban development (e.g. Mt Tamborine) are all likely to have affected flow regimes and water quality. A chytrid fungal disease has been identified as the cause of illness and death of M. fleayi on Main Range and Lamington plateau (Berger et al. 1998).

Conservation status

Mixophyes fleayi is currently listed as Endangered in the Action Plan, nationally and in both Queensland and New South Wales. It meets IUCN (2001) criteria for Endangered [B2ab(iii)].

Existing conservation measures

A captive husbandry project has been initiated at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.