Two amazing new species of boulder-dwelling frogs have been discovered by researchers exploring remote areas of Cape York Peninsula.
The frogs are completely new to science and have been named and described in a paper just published by Dr Conrad Hoskin from James Cook University and Kieran Aland from the Queensland Museum.
Dr Hoskin said finding the frogs was extremely exciting.
“It is exciting that in this day and age you can still go out in a fairly well explored country like Australia and find frogs totally new to science”.
Formerly from the Australian National University, where much of his research on the new species was conducted, Dr Hoskin is now at JCU’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology as an Australian Biological Resources Study Bush Blitz Postdoctoral Fellow.
He said that the new species of frogs lived deep down amongst the boulders and only came to the surface when it rained in the summer wet season.
“To explore these remote areas for frogs, we had to fly in during the wet season and hike through swamps to get to the boulder fields,” he said.
Dr Hoskin and Mr Aland said that new species were very interesting in that they are restricted to piles of massive boulders ‘hidden’ in the rainforest.
“They are adapted to their rocky world in having long arms, long slender fingers and big triangular finger pads,” they said. “These features enable them to climb amongst the labyrinth of rocks in which they live and they only occur in the rocks and never in the surrounding forest.”
Dr Hoskin said that not many species were found in the boulder piles – just the boulder frogs, a few species of lizards and various insects and spiders.
The frogs were found in two different areas in the vicinity of Iron Range, near the township of Lockhart River. Although highly localised to boulder piles in each area, the frogs are abundant where they occur.
“You can sit there as darkness falls and watch these amazing frogs emerge from the boulders all around you”, he said.
The frogs have been named:
· the Kutini Boulder-frog (Cophixalus kulakula). The species name kulakula translates as ‘rocky place’, and is a traditional name for the area where the species was discovered; and,
· the Golden-capped Boulder-frog (Cophixalus pakayakulangun). The species name pakayakulangun translates as ‘belonging amongst the boulders’.
Both names are derived from the local Kuuku Ya’u language and were chosen in consultation with the Indigenous custodians of the lands on which the frogs were discovered.
The new species belong to a group of frogs called microhylid frogs, which are largely restricted in Australia to the Wet Tropics rainforests of north-east Queensland.
Microhylid frogs lay their eggs on land, and the tadpoles develop within the egg and miniature frogs hatch out and head off into the forest or boulders. The two new species eat mostly ants.
“Most Australian microhylid frogs are very small, about 2 cm in length, but these are comparatively huge at about 5 cm”, Dr Hoskin said.