Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Australia
Population and Distribution
Litoria rheocola occurs from Broadwater Ck NP to Amos Bay, n. Qld, at altitudes between 0 and 1180 m (McDonald 1992). The area of occupancy of the species is approximately 6000 km2 (M. Cunningham pers. comm.). Three genetic lineages of L. rheocola have been identified, based on mitochondrial DNA, distributed from Kirrama Range to Palmerston NP, Bartle Frere to Harris Park and from Mt Lewis to Big Tableland (Schneider et al. 1998). Each of these lineages carry substantial genetic variability (Schneider et al. 1998). Litoria rheocola was first noted to have declined in 1989 (Richards et al. 1993). In 1990 several sites were sampled between the Kirrama Range and Cooktown, L. rheocola was common at all foothill and lowland sites and was recorded at some upland sites in the Kirrama Range in Apr. and on the Carbine Tableland in Jan. of that year (Richards et al. 1993). The species was abundant in Danbulla SF (700 m) in September 1982, but was not recorded there during monitoring between 1989 and 1992 (Richards et al. 1993). Litoria rheocola has since disappeared from most upland sites south of the Daintree R. (Richards et al. 1993). Richards et al. (1993) reported only two adults at Bobbin Bobbin Falls on the Atherton Tableland, although the species has been found regularly in that area between 1998 and Feb. 2000 (R. Retallick pers. comm.). At O'Keefe Ck, Big Tableland, L. rheocola has occasionally reappeared near a 400 m site, but has not established resident populations and is absent at a 600 m monitoring site (McDonald & Alford 1999). Adults and tadpoles remained common at upland sites north of the Daintree River (Richards et al. 1993) but disappeared in 1993 (M. Cunningham pers. comm.). Interestingly, the lowland populations still exist (McDonald & Alford 1999).
Litoria rheocola is known from Cedar Bay, Crater, Crater Lakes, Daintree, Lumholtz, Millstream and Wooroonooran NP, Herberton Range, Kirrama, Lamb Range, Maalan, Mt Lewis, Ravenshoe, Tam O'Shanter and Windsor Tableland SF, SF758 Alcock, Daintree Timber Reserve (165 Monkhouse) (Tyler 1997), Elizabeth Grant Falls, Palmerston NP (M. Cunningham pers. comm.).
Litoria rheocola is a rainforest specialist, endemic to the W.T. Bioregion (Williams & Hero 1998; 2001) restricted to fast flowing rocky creeks and streams in rainforest as well as wet sclerophyll forest (Liem 1974; McDonald 1992). Within these streams they are often found in the slower more open sections, away from waterfalls (Hodgkison & Hero in press). Individuals can be found on rocks, logs and vegetation in or adjacent to streams (Hero & Fickling 1994). Hodgkison and Hero (2003) reported differences in habitat use between males and females of the species. Females and juveniles use streamside vegetation more frequently than males. In contrast males displayed strong fidelity to the rocky stream environment.
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Calling males and gravid females have been observed throughout the year (Liem 1974). Breeding has been observed in most months, except during cold winter nights, and seems to reach a peak between Nov. and Mar. (Liem 1974; Dennis & Trenerry 1984). Males call from rocks or boulders in creeks or from vegetation overhanging water along streams and creeks (Liem 1974). The males appear to display inter-male spacing, with males rarely found within 1 m of each other, which is possibly a territorial response to low availability of females (Hodgkison & Hero in press). 46-63 unpigmented eggs (2.4-2. 6mm diameter), are laid in compact gelatinous clumps under rocks in water (Liem 1974; Hero & Fickling 1996). Tadpoles can be found in fast flowing sections of stream and adjacent pools in highly oxygenated water, clinging to rocks and other substrates (Liem 1974; Hero & Fickling 1994). Liem (1974) described the tadpoles of the species as torrent-dwelling, having flattened bodies, large suctorial mouthparts and muscular tails. Richards (1992) and Hero & Fickling (1994) also provided detailed information on the tadpoles of this species.
Feral pigs are a potential cause of riparian habitat damage and adult frog mortality (Richards et al. 1993). The activity of feral pigs has been recorded to have increased over the period 1989-1992 in an area previously inhabited by L. rheocola (Richards et al. 1993). There is very little research, however, into the impact of feral pigs on native frog populations (Richards et al. 1993).
Litoria rheocola displays an obligate association with streams and is reliably found within the stream banks throughout the year (McDonald & Alford 1999). Adult males gather at the stream in substantial numbers during the breeding season, while juveniles and females are rarely found (Hodgkison & Hero 2003). The location of this species during non-breeding periods remains unknown (Hodgkison & Hero 2003).
Tadpoles graze on algae-covered rocks in fast flowing waters (Liem 1974). Adults feed indiscriminately on both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates (Hodgkison & Hero 2003). Their principal diet includes: Diptera, Coleoptera, Orthoptera, Blattodea, Hemiptera and Aranea (Hodgkison & Hero 2003).
Trends and Threats
The reason(s) for the decline of L. rheocola are unknown. Richards et al. (1993) reject drought, floods, habitat destruction or pollution by pesticides, inorganic ions or heavy metals. The habitat of the species in the Wet Tropics has been protected since 1988, therefore habitat destruction is no longer a threat (McDonald & Alford 1999). Current research is examining the possibility that disease, such as a viral infection or chytrid fungus, may have contributed to the decline of this species (Berger et al. 1999). In recent experiments involving the translocation of tadpoles and adult frogs to sites previously occupied by the species, no clear pattern was evident in the disease results, and only some of the animals found dead showed signs of chytridiomycosis (Retallick 1999, 2000, 2001). It is unknown as to whether this disease was solely responsible for the disappearance of L. rheocola at these sites.
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
Berger, L., Speare, R. and Hyatt, A. (1999). ''Chytrid fungi and amphibian declines: overview, implications and future directions.'' Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. A. Campbell, eds., Environment Australia, Canberra, 23-33.
Dennis, A. and Trenerry, M. (1984). ''Observations on species diversity and habitat compartmentalisation of the frogs of Mt. Lewis rainforests, North Queensland.'' North Queensland Naturalist, 52, 2-9.
Hero, J.-M. and Fickling, S. (1994). A Guide to the Stream-dwelling Frogs of the Wet Tropics Rainforests. James Cook University, Townsville.
Hero, J.-M. and Fickling, S. (1996). ''Reproductive characteristics of female frogs from mesic habitats in Queensland.'' Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 39, 306.
Hodgkison, S. C. and Hero, J. M. (2003). ''Seasonal, sexual and ontogenetic variations in the diet of the declining frogs, Litoria nannotis, L. rheocola and Nyctimystes dayi.'' Wildlife Research, 30, 345-354.
Hodgkison, S.C. and Hero, J.-M. (2002). ''Seasonal behaviour of Litoria nannotis, Litoria rheocola and Nyctimystes dayi in Tully Gorge, north Queensland, Australia.'' Frogs in the Community – Proceedings of the Brisbane Conference 13-14 Feb 1999. A. E. O. Nattrass, eds., Queensland Frog Society, Incorporated, Brisbane.
Liem, D. S. (1974). ''A review of the Litoria nannotis species group and a description of a new species of Litoria from north-east Queensland.'' Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 17(1), 151-168.
McDonald, K. and Alford, R. (1999). ''A review of declining frogs in northern Queensland.'' Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. A. Campbell, eds., Environment Australia, Canberra. Available in .pdf format online.
Retallick, R. (1999). Using Translocations to Learn About Frog Declines and Disease. Unpublished abstract of a talk presented to Getting the Jump! on Amphibian Disease Conference, August 2000.
Retallick, R. (2000). Implementation of Queensland's Threatened Frog Recovery Plans, Experimental Ecology. Final Report from QPWS to EA.
Retallick, R. (2001). Translocations and Experimental Ecology of Declining Frogs in Queensland. Update for the Frog Recovery Team Meeting – Northern sub-committee, QPWS.
Richards, S. J., McDonald, K. R., and Alford, R. A. (1993). ''Declines in populations of Australia's endemic rainforest frogs.'' Pacific Conservation Biology, 1, 66-77.
Tyler, M.J. (1997). The Action Plan for Australian Frogs. Wildlife Australia, Canberra, ACT.
Williams, S. E., and Hero, J. M. (1998). "Rainforest frogs of the Australian wet tropics: Guild classification and the ecological similarity of declining species." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences, 265(1396), 597-602.
Williams, S.E. and Hero, J.-M. (2001). ''Multiple determinants of Australian tropical frog biodiversity.'' Biological Conservation, 98, 1-10.
Written by J-M. Hero; M. Cunningham; R. Retallick; L. Shoo; C. Morrison (m.hero AT mailbox.gu.edu.au), Griffith University
First submitted 2002-03-15
Edited by Ambika Sopory, Jean-Marc Hero, Kellie Whittaker (2010-05-18)
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