August 2014

Desert Gem

I was just wondering if you can help us to identify this beautiful little frog we have found in Moonie in South West Queensland?

Answer

Crucifix Frog (Notaden bennettii), Moonie. Photo by Dean Chaloner Crucifix Frog (Notaden bennettii) (QM Image) The Crucifix Frog (Notaden bennettii) spends a lot of its life buried underground (QM image)

The amphibian in your photograph is a Crucifix Frog or Holy Cross Toad (Notaden bennetti).

As you can see this is a truly beautiful native frog.  It is thought that the bright colours and the “cross” on the back on this species is a form of warning against predators.

While this species of frog is not uncommon they are rarely seen. The reason for this is that they actually spend most of their lives burrowed underground into the clay and mud of the floodplains of Central NSW and Central to Western Queensland.

Like other closely related frog species, the Crucifix Frog emerges from the soil after rain has softened the ground. Feeding is their main priority and they can be active every night for long periods of time (weeks) as long as moisture levels are sufficient. Once they are above ground they feed almost exclusively on termites and ants.

These frogs will only breed if there has been enough heavy rain to create pools of surface water. This is where male frogs can be found simply floating in place calling to attract a mate. Once a mate is found they will literally “glue” themselves together by excreting a fast drying thick fluid from special glands in the skin. The eggs and tadpoles of this species have a fast rate of development as the pools the eggs are laid in often begin to dry up quickly.

Once the soil starts to dry out again the frogs return to the ground and can remain there for months, perhaps even years, until the next lot of rain.

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