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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Tree Frogs; hopping higher

There are several families of frogs throughout the world known as 'tree frogs', which have quite independently evolved to very similar forms to enable a largely arboreal lifestyle. Most conspicuous among these adaptations are large toe pads, often with a sticky mucus which allows gripping onto smooth surfaces; long limbs and toes are sometimes also evident.
Green Tree Frog Litoria caerulea, tastefully posing on a yellow brick wall (not road)
in Karumba, tropical Queensland.
The family Rhacophoridae occurs in Africa and south to south-east Asia.
Cinnamon Frog Nyctixalus pictus, family Rhacophoridae, Batang Ai NP, Sarawak.
This one breeds in pools in tree hollows.
Along with this family, the big family Hyperoliidae is widespread in Africa. I can't tell to which family the next two pictures belong (field guides in these areas are sparse, and most of the defining characters even at a family level are internal), though I suspect Rhacophoridae for both. Needless to say, I'll be happy to receive and acknowledge any suggestions!
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, south-western Uganda
Korup National Park, western Cameroon.
However the 'true' tree frogs (not my term and I really have no idea what it means!) belong to the very large and widespread family Hylidae, found right across mid-latitude Eurasia, North and South America and Australia, though a Gondwanan origin has been suggested.

It is the largest frog family in Australia (since the big family of ground frogs, Myobatrachidae, was split into two - now comprising that one plus Limnodynastidae). Most species (some 70) belong to the genus Litoria; curiously the burrowing frog genus Cyclorana (about a dozen species) is in the same family.

Let's just enjoy some of these lovely Australian Litoria tree frogs.
Dainty Tree Frog L. gracilenta, Mount Molloy, north Queensland. This is a familiar little frog,
as it is often found around human habitations, along the east coast from a little north of Sydney to Cape York.
It likes to hide in banana hands, hence a popular name of Banana Box Frog, as it can travel long distances thus.

Green Tree Frog L. caerulea, Darwin. As can be seen, this is another frog which is happy to share its
dwellings with humans; this one spent its days in a pile of stacked plastic chairs on a verandah.
'Caerulea', or 'sky blue', may reasonably be seen as an odd name for a green frog; however the first
specimens to be sent back to England turned blue when pickled in formalin!
Dahl's Aquatic Frog L. dahlii, Fogg Dam near Darwin. As the name suggests this 'tree frog'
mostly lives in or near water; its toes (not visible here) have no climbing pads.

Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog L. fallax; a small tree frog (no more than 30mm long) found along much
of the east coast. It too can turn up in fruit shops far from its home, having hitched a ride.
Javelin Frog L. microbelos, south of Darwin; the common name is apparently a reference to its pointy snout.
I rescued this one from attack by Green Tree Ants in a bird hide.
Motorbike Frog L. moorei Margaret River, Western Australia; named not from any strange habits,
but its remarkable call, just like a motorbike revving up through the gears.

Peron's Tree Frog L. peronii, Pilliga National Park, inland northern New South Wales (not very keen on being
photographed - sorry!); sometimes called the Maniacal Laughter Frog for its astonishingly loud call.
It was named for François Peron, a young medical student who became chief scientist on the mighty
Baudin expedition to Australia from 1800 to 1802. He was promoted by
default when the professional scientists abandoned ship in protest at Baudin's high-handed treatment of them,
but proved himself a natural in the job.

Lesueur's Tree Frog L. lesueurii, Nowra, south coast New South Wales.
For Charles Lesueur, an artist on the Baudin expedition who worked with Peron.
(I'm having a few doubts about my identification of this one, now that I look again; any comments?)
Verreaux's Tree Frog L. verreauxii, subalpine Kosciuszko National Park.

Magnificent Tree Frog L. splendida, Territory Wildlife Park, south of Darwin.
This is the only captive animal on this posting, but it really is, well, magnificent!
It lives on the border of Northern Territory and Western Australia, on the coast.
White-lipped Tree Frog L. infrafrenata, Mareeba Wetlands, north Queensland.
This superb frog is allegedly the world's largest tree frog, up to nearly 15cm long!
Found from northern tropical Queensland and into New Guinea and associated islands.
And as I mentioned before, 'true' tree frogs are also found elsewhere; here are some South American hylids from the Amazon, most of which I can't identify; again, I'd love your assistance if you're able to offer it.
Dendropsophus leali, Rio Alto Madre de Dios, southern Peru.
From Sacha Lodge, Yasuní National Park, Ecuador, above and below.

Machiguenga Lodge, Manu Reserved Zone, southern Peru.
So, tree frogs; how could you not love them?! You've probably not learnt a lot from this posting, but I hope you've enjoyed it and them! I'm sure I'll be supplementing this post with new photos from time to time.

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