In an Australian Reptile Park first, a species considered “Vulnerable” on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species has moved in and made the Australian Reptile Park its home. Six male red crowned toadlets have been discovered in the Park’s artificial frog pond, which was constructed in 2009 with the purpose of providing a home for frogs native to the area. The red crowned toadlet is a small species, reaching only 30mm in length and is characterised by the red “T” shaped mark on its head.
The species is usually found in the Sydney sandstone basin which is one of the most populated places in Australia, which has contributed heavily to the species demise. Another reason for the species “Vulnerable” status is the Chytrid fungus. The fungus attacks the parts of a frog’s skin that have keratin in them. Since frogs use their skin in respiration, this makes it difficult for the frog to breathe. The fungus also damages the nervous system, affecting the frog’s behaviour.
Interestingly, the red crowned toadlet is in the same family as of one of Australia’s most endangered frogs – the Corroboree frog. This family of frogs have a very interesting behavioural trait in which the male digs a little u-shaped burrow in the ground with his hind legs near a suitable water source. The female will come and find the male in the Winter, mate and then leaves the male while her eggs are fertalising. She will then return to the burrow to lay her eggs, but then she leaves again making the male stay in his burrow to guard the precious frogspawn.
Within the burrow, the tadpoles develop within the frogspawn and in Spring, he opens up his burrow for the rain to sweep the frogspawn from the burrow down sandstone gullies to a nearby pond for them to hatch and develop as tadpoles into toadlets.
The Australian Reptile Park is hoping that the discover of these males leads to a small and healthy population being established so we can monitor the conservation of this fascinating species!