Northern Whistling Frog
Austrochaperina fryi (Zweifel, 1962)

Family: Microhylidae - Narrow-mouthed Frogs

Order: Anura - Frogs and Toads

Class: Amphibia

Phylum: Chordata - Vertebrates

Kingdom: Animalia

Red List status: Least Concern

 

Other common names: Fry's whistling frog, peeping whistlefrog

DESCRIPTION

A small, robust frog with a rounded body and no distinct neck. Animals exhibit mottled dark or reddish brown colouration above, while the underside may be white, yellow or reddish-orange. The belly may be lightly speckled or mottled. There are usually dark patches at the side of the head. Toe discs are small, and all digits are unwebbed. Maxillary teeth are absent.

Similar species: The variable colouration and similar body form makes Fry's whistling frog difficult to distinguish from other Austrochaperina species, and it can most reliably be identified by excluding others based on their distribution. The white-browed whistling frog (A. pluvialis) exhibits white stripes along the canthus rostralis; however, this feature has also been recorded for A. fryi (see main photo). The white-browed whistling frog is only known from elevations up to 200 m. The more robust body shape and larger size distinguishes it from other microhylid frogs (genus Cophixalus) in the region. Smaller size distinguishes it from most other Australian frogs. The combination of unwebbed toes and the absence of maxillary teeth distinguish whistling frogs from Australian ground frogs (Myobatrachidae and Limnodynastidae). Most tree frogs have enlarged toe discs, longer hindlimbs and more slender bodies.

Austrochaperina fryi (right) alongside a species of Cophixalus

Call: A series of high whistles.

Call recording Jean-Marc Hero

 

HABITAT

This is a species found in and around rainforest; during the day it may be found under rocks used as shelter sites adjacent to paths or roads.

Elevation: The species has been recorded from sea level up to a maximum altitude of 1,300 m, but appears to be most abundant above 600 m.

 

BEHAVIOUR

Fry's whistling frog is nocturnal and fully terrestrial. Animals disturbed in retreat sites will often actively attempt to escape rather than relying on remaining unnoticed. Calling activity during the breeding season typically follows heavy rain, with males calling from the ground, or on or below leaf litter. Courtship behaviour has never been observed, but is presumed to be similar to that of the ornate nursery frog.

 

BIOLOGY

Breeding Biology: In common with all Australian members of this family, Fry's whistling frog exhibits direct development. Clutches of up to twelve eggs are laid under logs, and the species exhibits egg-guarding behaviour as a defence against predators. In at least two of three observed cases, the attendant frog was male. It is possible that, as in related species, males may sometimes guard multiple clutches.

 

STATUS

Though abundant in some areas, this frog is patchily-distributed over a small range and is classified as nationally Rare in Australia. Its habitat is currently fully protected within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, but there are concerns that Australia's mountain-dwelling microhylid frogs may be at risk from climate change.

 

 

REFERENCES

Amphibians of the World Online 3.0
Amphibiaweb, University of California
Frogs of Australia
Global Amphibian Assessment

Hero, J.-M. & Retallick, R. 2004. Austrochaperina fryi. In: IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 01 October 2008.
Hoskin, C. J. (2004) Australian microhylid frogs (Cophixalus and Austrochaperina): phylogeny, taxonomy, calls, distributions and breeding biology. Australian Journal of Zoology 52: 237-269
Dr. Steve Williams, James Cook University
Wildlife of Tropical North Queensland, The Queensland Museum 2000

Snout-vent length: 35 mm
Fry's whistling frog, Mt Lewis, Queensland, Australia
RANGE

Restricted to the coastal and near-coastal area between the Atherton Tableland and Cooktown, Queensland, Australia.

Range            Description            Habitat            Behaviour            Biology            Status