Remote Kimberley teeming with unclassified life

Aug 18, 2014 by Geoff Vivian
The chattering rock frog Litoria staccato was found near Kununurra and named for its distinctive call. Credit: P Doughty/WA Museum

A WA Museum herpetologist has described several 'new' Kimberley frog species, mostly collected during field trips with Kings Park botanists Matt and Russell Barrett.

WA Museum's Paul Doughty says much of the Kimberley is not easily accessible so it has a wealth of undescribed , but they need to schedule collecting trips during the wet season.

"The place is just alive with frogs—for a 'frogger' it's almost sad to go in the dry season because there's just no action," he says.

As the north-west Kimberley has no all-weather roads, they routinely arrive in a helicopter piloted by amateur naturalist Butch Maher.

Dr Doughty says his team found five of the species in the Prince Regent National Park and the Mitchell Plateau area (north-west Kimberley) and one southern Kimberley species near Fitzroy Crossing.

He says the main field equipment is a head torch, a pair of hands and a digital recorder for capturing frog calls.

"Anyone can catch the frogs," he says.

"The hard thing is to get an excellent recording, if it's a male, associated with that frog.

"That can be a bit time consuming and a bit fussy with the microphones and all the cables running through mud."

Herpetologist Paul Doughty often travels to the remote north-west Kimberley for collecting expeditions. Credit: P Doughty/WA Museum

He says once a frog's call is successfully recorded they capture it for a voucher specimen, and he uses a small portable camera to photograph frogs in the field.

"When we get them back into the lab we'll get some nice photographs with a high-quality mini studio setup, so that people can really see what they're like.

"We take a tissue sample that we can then analyse the genetics for, so we can look at how distinctive these populations are."

They then closely observe the specimens' morphology, asking how they differ from species already described.

New species from the north-west Kimberley are:

  • The chattering rock frog Litoria staccato, found near Kununurra and named for its distinctive call.
  • The Kimberley rock hole frog Litoria aurifera, which has distinctive gold-flecked tadpoles first collected by Kings Park botanists Matt and Russell Barrett.
  • The Kimberley rocket Litoria axillaris.
  • Crinia fimbriata that doesn't seem to have any close relatives, although the genus occurs across Australia.
  • The tiny toadlet Uperoleia micra collected at Mornington Station.
  • They also described a little toadlet Uperoleia stridera from the Fitzroy Valley.

Dr Doughty also plays a key role in maintaining the Kimberley field guide, which was last revised in 2009. 

Explore further: Colliding plates form Kimberley 'Alps' 

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Colliding plates form Kimberley 'Alps' 

Jun 16, 2014

A geological survey has confirmed that a section of the North Australia Craton was forced under its neighbouring tectonic plate and in the process created the hills that stretch from Halls Creek up to Kununurra ...

Recommended for you

Study shows starving mantis females attract more males

20 hours ago

A study done by Katherine Barry an evolutionary biologist with Macquarie University in Australia has led to the discovery that a certain species of female mantis attracts more males when starving, then do ...

African swine fever threatens Europe

22 hours ago

African swine fever, or ASF, is a viral disease that kills almost every pig it infects and is likened to Ebola. It gained a foothold in Georgia in 2007, when contaminated pig meat landed from a ship from ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.