From the editor
Spring is sprung and the frogs are calling you!
Frogs are well-known for their “cold-blood” and love of warm weather. Here in Victoria though, there are plenty of species that aren’t put off by the cold! Common Eastern Froglets were recorded regularly by The Frogs Are Calling You citizen scientists throughout the winter and now the Beeping Froglets (this issue’s Featured Frog) are joining in.
You don’t need to go far from home to hear the frogs calling you! If you have a pond on your property, or close to it, you can still join in the fun! All the details are at www.frogscalling.org.
Project Coordinator, The Frogs Are Calling You
Beeping Froglet Crinia parinsignifera
Photo by Geoff Heard
Also known as: Eastern Sign-bearing Froglet, Plains Froglet, Murray Valley Froglet.
Victorian distribution: Most of the state, except the coastal east and arid mallee.
Conservation: Not considered threatened.
Habitat: Under debris and amongst vegetation at the edges of ponds, swamps, flooded areas and puddles, especially in wooded or disturbed areas.
Call: A distinctive squelchy beep! Calls from mid-winter to spring.
And another thing: Beeping Froglets, just like other species in the genus Crinia (check out our “What’s in a name” article in this issue for more info), are really variable in colour and pattern. The best way to tell the species apart is by their calls. Download the FrogID app for help!
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By Elaine Bayes, WetMAP field scientist
Visiting a wetland several times through its varied seasonal changes of wetting and drying is an amazing thing to behold. Everchanging suites of species visiting or appearing throughout different seasons means that no two visits are the same.
Wetlands are a constantly shifting landscape which flora and fauna have had to develop amazing adaptations to survive. From extreme drying to massive flooding. In fact, Australia has the most variable climate on earth.
During our WetMAP frog surveys we visit sites over different seasons, years and climatic events. One of my favourite sites is Doctors Swamp near Murchison in Northern Victoria. This is one of the most intact red gum swamps in Victoria. The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority has ensured that this wetland has received environmental water since 2010 as well as monitored wetland health and response to watering (which is a new and developing science).
I love to visit in spring when it is full of crystal-clear water and you can wade through stunning flowering aquatic plants (there are no leeches – phew!), disturbing red-bellied black snakes sun baking on giant logs. Then falling asleep at camp in the evening to a chorus of seven species of frog.
Common frog species we have found most times of year but more commonly in wetter times are:
Common Eastern Froglet, Crinia signifiera,
Beeping Froglet, Crinia parinsignifera
Emerald Spotted Tree Frog, Litoria peronii
Pobblebonk, Limnodynastes dumerilli
Spotted Marsh Frog, Limnodynastes tasmaniensis
In winter months you get a nice surprise to hear the rarely found, winter calling Sloane’s Froglet (Crinia sloanei). All Crinia species have adapted to take advantage of any available water by having a rapid egg-tadpole-frog development time of six weeks. In comparison to Growling Grass Frogs which can be 12-15 months, which are restricted to wetlands that can hold water that long.
In autumn surveys we are lucky to find Sudell’s Frog (Neobatrachus sudellae), which we have only heard two years out of six, in May 2017 and 2020. This species is likely there at other times but has adapted to dry periods by using a little shovel on their feet to dig themselves deep into the damp subsoil.
I hope that you enjoy watching your froggy patch as much as we do. Don’t forget to record each visit on the Frog ID app, so your sightings are recorded. Multiple records particularly, help build frog ecological knowledge.
Emerald Spotted Tree Frog, Litoria peronii, photos by Geoff Heard
By Pam Clunie and Phil Papas, WetMAP Scientists, Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI)
The final report for WetMAP Stage 3 is out! This report summarises our findings from monitoring the response of frogs, as well as fish, vegetation and birds to environmental water. You can read about the work and access the report here: https://www.ari.vic.gov.au/research/wetlands-and-floodplains/assessing-wetland-response-to-water-for-the-environment
As mentioned in previous Croak! Lab Reports, we found that frogs responded quickly and positively to environmental watering. Environmental watering resulted in:
an increase in the number of native frog species
an increase in the number of native frogs present
breeding of native frogs. While there were few records of breeding, they all occurred in watered wetlands.
How much and how long wetlands were inundated played an important role in defining the species that occur there. However, the importance of the previous watering period on frog occurrence varied, generally related to how long the tadpoles of different species take to develop. In general, wetlands that were watered had similar abundances and numbers of frog species compared to wetlands that always have water in them. Providing key habitats such as tall emergent plants along the edges of wetlands can also be important for frogs. This indicates that management of wetlands for frogs will likely need to consider complementary management actions to meet their habitat needs.
Planning is well underway for the next stage of WetMAP. This means there will be more opportunities for frog citizen scientists to help collect valuable scientific data to directly support management. Environmental water released into wetlands aims to achieve particular environmental objectives, including providing feeding and breeding opportunities, habitat and refuge for frogs. Water managers (such as catchment management authorities), planners and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder consider both short term (annual) watering (through Seasonal Watering Plans) and longer term (decadal) watering (through Environmental Water Management Plans).
The recording of frog calls has proven to be very effective in detecting most species. The FrogID records collected by you will provide an important contribution to these data. As our plans for the next stage of WetMAP progress, we’ll be sharing further information with you about planned environmental watering events across particular wetlands in Victoria, so you will be able to witness and record the impact of environmental water on frogs as it happens!
What's in a name?
Why would anyone in their right mind choose to use the name Limnodynastes tasmaniensis instead of Spotted Marsh Frog?! Or Crinia parinsignifera instead of Beeping Froglet?
All organisms that have been described (a scientific description, published in the scientific literature) by scientists have a scientific name. Some people think of this as a “Latin name”, but scientific names are often of Greek origin (or both Latin and Greek!). When writing a scientific description, the team of scientists come up with a scientific name that suits the organism (or sometimes named for a person, such as Litoria littlejohni named after local frog expert Professor Murray Littlejohn).
The scientific name is made up of two parts – the first word is its genus (you could think of it as a surname), which is pre-determined by its relationship to other species. The genus always has a capital letter. The second part is the “specific epithet” – the particular name given to that species. Both names have to go together to make sense, because just as there are many people with the same first name there are also lots of organisms known by the same specific epithet (like “vulgaris”, meaning common). Each scientific name is unique to each species though. There are deliberately no double ups, unlike human names.
So by using the scientific name, everyone knows exactly what species is being discussed. For example, there are at least two species known by the common name “Carpenter Frog”, (one is Limnodynastes lignarius, found in WA and another, Lithobates virgatipes, that lives in the USA).
Chances are, context will help you out a lot – whether you are in either the US or Australia would probably give you a clue which frog is being talked about. But even if there’s only one species in question, common names can still be problematic. This issue’s featured frog, the Beeping Froglet, is a really good example of why the scientific name is often more useful. The species is known by lots of different names. Some people call it the Plains Froglet, because it’s found in the plains. Some people call it the Eastern Sign-bearing Froglet because it sometimes has a cross shaped marking. Some people call it the Murray Valley Froglet, because that’s where it’s found. But it’s also found in other places. So many names, so little time to work out which frog it is!
This is when scientific names become more useful and less annoying. Although the system isn’t perfect (and from time to time names change to reflect things like the understanding of genetic relationships), it does go a long way to standardising the names of organisms.
So why do scientists use common names at all? Because who in their right mind wants to make life more difficult by using a longer more complicated name, that’s also often hard to spell?! Colloquialisms may sometimes be more meaningful than science and the local names are as legitimate as any others!
Emerald Spotted Tree Frog / Peron’s Tree Frog, Litoria peronii by Geoff Heard
Find Out More
Environmental Water: www.vewh.vic.gov.au
The Frogs Are Calling You: www.frogscalling.org
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