NSW Scientific Committee - final determination
The Scientific Committee has found that:
1. The Mountain Frog Philoria kundagungan (Ingram and Corben 1975) is a small, squat frog of approximately 30 mm in length (Cogger 2000). The upper surface of individuals varies from yellow, orange, red or black with patches of alternative colours, and the skin can be either smooth or "warty" (Knowles et al. 2004). The underside is either immaculate yellow, yellow with red patches or yellow with red and brown patches, and a dark facial stripe may be present running from near the tip of the snout, across each eye to the base of either forelimb. The Mountain Frog is currently listed as Vulnerable in NSW.
2. The Mountain Frog occurs in far north-east NSW on the top of the eastern escarpment of the Great Dividing Range. A recent review of the three Philoria species in north-east NSW identified two new species, P. richmondensis and P. pughi (Knowles et al. 2004). The distribution of the latter species occurs in an area, which prior to taxonomic revision, therefore was thought to be occupied by P. kundagungan. The range of the Mountain Frog is confined to a smaller area than previously thought. Records of the Mountain Frog in NSW are almost all from National Parks and Wildlife Service estate, and are now distributed from Tooloom National Park, 75km north-west of Casino, north to Koorelah National Park, Mount Clunie National Park and Donaldson State Forest, all on the NSW-Queensland border.
3. The Mountain Frog is a habitat specialist associated with mountain streams. It inhabits boggy headwaters of streams and soaks in antarctic beech forests, rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests above altitudes of approximately 550 m (Cogger 2000; Knowles et al. 2004). Individuals burrow into loose, moist soil or moss and sit in mossy cavities on stream banks. Breeding occurs from late August to mid February. Males construct water-filled breeding chambers in the ground, into which jelly-encapsulated eggs are deposited in a foam mass (Knowles et al. 2004). Each egg contains sufficient yolk to nourish an embryo through to the juvenile stage, and like other species of Philoria, Mountain Frog tadpoles complete their entire development within these nests.
4. Given its habitat specificity and the extent of this habitat, the Mountain Frog is perhaps naturally restricted. However, clearing and habitat fragmentation have restricted the potential range of this species, and have isolated local populations where appropriate habitat survives. Degradation of habitat may result from disturbances to hydrological regimes and water quality, and also from trampling by domestic stock (Hines et al. 1999). Moreover, the key threatening process Anthropogenic climate change is likely to affect the extent of Philoria-preferred habitat, a threat that is not likely to be mitigated by the occurrence of habitat in reserves.
5. The Mountain Frog is susceptible to infection by amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which is listed as a key threatening process in NSW. Amphibian chytrid fungus is a water-borne pathogen virulent to adults of all frog species and causes the fatal disease chytridiomycosis (Berger et al. 1999). Chytridiomycosis is responsible for the decline of many frog species from eastern Australia, particularly upland stream-associated species from cool and temperate environments. Although the Mountain Frog is a terrestrial species, it remains susceptible to infection by its association with moist environments and its use of water-filled nests. Further, breeding chambers are often aggregated on the forest floor, which increases the communicability of chytrid fungus between individuals.
6. In view of the above the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that the Mountain Frog Philoria kundagungan (Ingram and Corben 1975) is likely to become extinct in nature in New South Wales unless the circumstances and factors threatening its survival or evolutionary development cease to operate.
Dr Lesley Hughes
Proposed Gazettal date: 29/4/05
Exhibition period: 29/4/05 - 24/6/05
Berger L, Speare R, Hyatt A (1999) Chytrid fungi and amphibian declines: overview, implications and future directions. In 'Declines and disappearances of Australian frogs'. (Ed. A. Campbell) pp. 23-33. (Environment Australia: Canberra).
Cogger HG (2000) 'Reptiles and amphibians of Australia.' (Reed Books: Chatswood).
Hines H, Mahony M, McDonald K (1999) An assessment of frog declines in wet subtropical Australia. In 'Declines and disappearances of Australian frogs'. (Ed. A. Campbell) pp. 44-63. (Environment Australia: Canberra).
Knowles R, Mahony M, Armstrong J, Donnellan S (2004) Systematics of sphagnum frogs of the Genus Philoria (Anura: Myobatrachidae) in eastern Australia, with the description of two new species. Records of the Australian Museum 56, 57-74.