20.
Northern Tinker Frog
(Taudactylus rheophilus)
CR
Overview
In the early 1990s declines in populations of the northern tinker frog were so huge it was thought that the species may have been driven to extinction; surveys from 1991 to 1994 failed to find any individuals. However, later in the decade small numbers of individuals were heard calling again. The genus Taudactylus, known as torrent frogs, contains just six species, and is highly threatened with extinction; four of the species have been classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, one as Near Threatened, and one as Extinct. Chytrid fungus is the suspected cause of declines in the torrent frogs, and is known to have caused the extinction of two closely related species from the same part of Queensland.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Refinement of husbandry techniques for this species so that a captive breeding population may be established.
Distribution
Norther Queensland, Australia.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Anura
Family: Myobatrachidae
The Myobatrachidae family arose during the early Cretaceous period around 100 million years ago, a time when dinosaurs dominated life on Earth. The family is distributed throughout Australia and southern New Guinea, and is split into 3 sub-families - the Limnodynastinae, Myobatrachinae and Rheobatrachinae. The Myobatrachidae is notable among amphibian groups because most of the species exhibit some form of parental care, including gastric brooding, and the carrying of tadpoles in pouches, similar to marsupial mammals.

The genus Taudactylus, known as torrent frogs, contains just six species, and is highly threatened with extinction; four of the species have been classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, one as Near Threatened, and one as Extinct. Of the four Critically Endangered species, one is listed as 'possibly extinct' and further research is urgently required to determine the status of this species. We can only hope that it has not already disappeared.
Description
The northern tinker frog is relatively small, growing to a maximum length of 30 mm. The upper surface can be smooth or finely granular, ranges in colouration from grey to reddish or dark brown, and has irregular dark markings. The underside is smooth and brown with conspicuous irregular pale cream to white markings. There is a narrow light greyish stripe running from the eye to the groin, with a broader black band beneath this stripe. The bottom edge of the black band is indistinct, breaking into an almost marbled pattern on the frog's side. A faint, pale horizontal bar runs between the eyes, and there is a pale patch from the edge of the jaw to the base of the arm. There is irregular dark cross bands on the limbs, and the digits are also barred with dark brown and creamy-grey. The tip of the digits have small, but noticable, discs, and the toes lack webbing.

The call of the northern tinker frog has been described as a matallic tapping sound, like a 'tink', repeated four or five times in quick succession, and as a gentle rattling.
Ecology
Although breeding only in December to May, the northern tinker frog is active all year round. At breeding time males call, predominantly during the day, from under rocks or roots, or while partially submerged in the water. Eggs and tadpoles have never been seen in the wild, however up to 50 large eggs, to 2.4 mm diameter, have been found in pregnant females
Habitat
The northern tinker frog is found only in montane regions of the wet tropics of Queensland, where it is strongly associated with streams; individuals can be found under rocks, large boulders and logs on the banks of fast-flowing streams all year round. This species has been found at altitudes of 940 to 1,400 metres, where the general habitat type is upland rainforest.
Distribution
The northern tinker frog is restricted to just five mountaintops, from Thornton Peak to Mount Bellenden Ker, in northern Queensland, Australia. The species is found between 940 and 1,400 metres altitude, and does not occur in the habitat between the mountaintops
Population Estimate
No formal population estimate has been carried out, however it is suspected that sub-populations are very small as few individuals can be heard calling at any one site
Population Trend
In the early 1990s declines in populations of the northern tinker frog were so huge it was thought that the species may have been driven to extinction; surveys from 1991 to 1994 failed to find any individuals. However, later in the decade small numbers of individuals were heard calling, and a few populations were rediscovered. The current population trend is unknown.
Status
The northern tinker frog is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red Lost of Threatened Species because of a catastrophic population decline estimated to be greater than 80% in the last three generations, and the small and highly fragmented nature of the distribution. Under Australian Government legislation the species is listed as Endangered.
Threats
The cause of the large and sudden declines in the northern tinker frog are not well known, with studies finding no evidence of drought, floods, habitat destruction or pollution as the root of the fall in numbers. Many suspect that a virulent disease was the cause, possibly chytrid fungus which is known to have caused declines in many amphibian species worldwide, including a number of species from Queensland which are closely related to the northern tinker frog. Feral pigs do occur within the range of the northern tinker frog, are known to damage stream-side habitat, and and may eat adult frogs, however the direct impacts of feral pigs on frog populations has not been studied.

Any population recovery in the northern tinker frog may be slowed by the effects of having small and fragmented populations, although the details of how this might affect recovery are unknown. Factors that could affect population growth include low genetic variability and demographic instability.
Conservation Underway
The whole of the distribution of the northern tinker frog is within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, within which, 18% of known sites are within national parks (including Daintree and Wooroonooran), 73% are within forestry reserves, and 9% are on private land. Sadly, however, protected areas do nothing to stop the effects of disease, the most likely cause of declines in this species, so this is not sufficient to ensure the survival of the northern tinker frog. There is continuing research and monitoring of known populations being carried out.
Conservation Proposed
The draft recovery plan for the northern tinker frog recommends that all historical localities are monitored to ensure that any signs of recovery are detected, and that staff and volunteers in National Parks are trained to recognise the species, ensuring that monitoring is as extensive as possible. The plan also states that there should be further investigation into disease in this species and related species found in the same region, and that husbandry techniques for the torrent frogs should be refined so that an ex situ population of all threatened species can be established, as is recommended by the IUCN for all species listed as Critically Endangered.
Links
References
Alford, R., McDonald, K., Cunningham, M. & Retallick, R. 2004. Taudactylus rheophilus. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 01 December 2006.

AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation [web application]. 2006. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: amphibiaweb. Accessed: 08 December 2006.

Baillie, J. and Groombridge, B. (compilers and editors) 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Berger, L., Speare, R. and Hyatt, A. 1999. Chytrid fungi and amphibian declines: overview, implications and future directions. In: A. Campbell (ed.), Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs, pp. 23-33. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Freeman, A. 2000. Records of Taudactylus rheophilus on Mount Bellenden Ker. In: Frog Research, Monitoring and Management Group. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Freeman, A. 2003. An observation of calling northern tinker frogs on Mount Bellenden Ker. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 49: 295-298.

Frost, D. R., T. Grant, J. Faivovich, R. H. Bain, A. Haas, C. F. B. Haddad, R. O. De Sá, A. Channing, M. Wilkinson, S. C. Donnellan, C. J. Raxworthy, J. A. Campbell, B. L. Blotto, P. Moler, R. C. Drewes, R. A. Nussbaum, J. D. Lynch, D. M. Green, and W. C. Wheeler. 2006. The Amphibian Tree of Life. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 297: 1-370.

Frost, Darrel R. 2006. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 4 (17 August 2006). Electronic Database accessible at: . American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA.

Groombridge, B. (ed.) 1994. 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Halliday, T. and Adler, C. (eds.). 2002. The new encyclopedia of reptiles and amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hero, J.-M., Hines, H.B., Meyer, E., Morrison, C. and Streatfeild, C. 2002. New records of "declining" frogs in Queensland (- April 1999). In: R. Natrass (ed.), Frogs in the Community - Proceedings of the Brisbane Conference 13-14 February 1999, pp. 23-28. Queensland Museum.

Hero, J.-M., Hines, H.B., Meyer, E., Morrison, C., Streatfeild, C and Roberts, L. 1998. New records of "declining" frogs in Queensland, Australia. FrogLog 29: 1-4.

Ingram, G.J. 1980. A new frog of the genus Taudactylus (Myobatrachidae) from mid-eastern Queensland with notes on the other species of the genus. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 20(1): 111-119.

IUCN, Conservation International and NatureServe. 2006. Global Amphibian Assessment. Global Amphibian Assessment. Accessed on 08 December 2006.

Liem, D.S. and Hosmer, W. 1973. Frogs of the genus Taudactylus with description of two new species (Anura: Leptodactylidae). Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 16(3): 435-457.

Marshall, C.J. 1998. The reappearance of Taudactylus (Anura: Myobatrachidae) in north Queensland streams. Pacific Conservation Biology 4: 39-41.

McDonald, K. and Alford, R. 1999. A review of declining frogs in northern Queensland. In: A. Campbell (ed.), Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs, pp. 14-22. Environment Australia, Canberra.

McDonald, K.R. 1992. Distribution patterns and conservation status of north Queensland rainforest frogs. In: Conservation Technical Report No. 1. Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, Brisbane, Australia.

Obst, F.J., Richter, K. and Jacob, U. 1984. The Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians for the Terrarium. T.F.H. Publication Inc., N.J., U.S.A.

Richards, S.J., McDonald, K.R. and Alford, R.A. 1993. Declines in populations of Australia's endemic tropical rainforest frogs. Pacific Conservation Biology 1: 66-77.

Roelants, K., Gower, D. J., Wilkinson, M., Loader, S. P., Biju, S. D., Guillaume, K., Moiau, L. and Bossuyt, F. 2007. Global patterns of diversification in the history of modern amphibians. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 887-892.

Tyler, M.J. 1992. Encyclopedia of Australian Animals: Frogs. Collins Angus and Robertson, New South Wales.

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 B 265: 597-602.

Williams, S.E. and Hero, J.-M. 2001. Multiple determinants of Australian Tropical Frog Biodiversity. Biological Conservation 98: 1-10.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org


Forum comments
  1. wildam
    Member

    Northern Tinker Frog

    http://www.wettropics.gov.au/pa/pa_images/frog9.jpg

    Posted 8 years ago #

RSS feed for this topic

Add a comment

You must log in to post. If you don't have a login, it's easy to register.