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Question of the month

Call to confirm.

I am unfamiliar with this light coloured frog. Can you please identify it?

Answer

Incognito frog. Photo: Mark Macpherson, 2021.

Your frog could be one of two similar species that can occur in the same area, the Naked Tree Frog (Litoria rubella) and the Bleating Tree Frog (Litoria dentata). The pattern of darker shading, faintly visible on the back of the frog in your photo, suggests that it is a Bleating Tree Frog but this identification is by no means certain! Many frogs are able to shift intensity of colour and pattern. On a pale background, some frogs can quickly fade prominent markings to match.

Within several groups of Australian frogs, species that are similar in appearance can be readily distinguished when the males call. In some cases, it can be easier to identify frogs by call rather than appearance. Call recordings are available in various places online and resources such as FrogID highlight the importance of the call. Frog taxonomists often publish a description of the call when they are providing new species with a name. Unfortunately, “Call confirmation” is not particularly useful when frogs are not calling and female frogs may never vocalise at all. Despite these limitations, if you keep an ear out after the next storm, you may hear your frog call and you can try and identify the species using call recordings! 

Although Naked Tree Frogs and Bleating Tree Frogs are small and seem fragile, they are able to persist through dry periods in a dry country! It is remarkable that they survive, in abundance and over a wide distribution, without employing the burrowing strategy of most dry country frogs.

Call of Naked Tree Frog. Recording: Vic Patterson/Australian Museum (380 KB) mp3 document icon

Call of Bleating Tree Frog. Recording: Jodi Rowley/Australian Museum (289 KB) mp3 document icon


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