BIO­DI­VER­SITY

Science Illustrated - - CONTENTS -

What if a tree frog hated trees?

What ex­actly makes a tree frog a tree frog? Well, the clue is right there in the name. Tree frogs nor­mally spend most of their time up a tree, or at least off the ground in some kind of plant, and only re­turn to the ground and the wa­ter to mate and spawn.

But evo­lu­tion be­ing what it is, of course there are a bunch of tree frog species that don’t spend much time in trees at all, and live their lives on the banks of flow­ing streams or near deep pools, just like any other frog.

Here (main picture) a ju­ve­nile Li­to­ria

cit­ropa basks on the edge of a pool near Wood­ford, NSW. Bush­walk­ers and res­i­dents know these frogs well, and of­ten have to share swim­ming spots with them.

Most frogs hide away dur­ing the day, but Li­to­ria cit­ropa will of­ten ap­pear as you ford a creek or take a dip. This is a lit­tle one, but they can grow to about six cen­time­tres (in­set above).

Like the fa­mous green and golden bell frog and a sur­pris­ingly large num­ber of other species, these frogs are tree frogs not be­cause they live in trees (since they don’t) but be­cause they’re clas­si­fied in the genus

frogs are found in New Guinea, Ti­mor, var­i­ous is­lands, and of course Aus­tralia. The clas­sic white-lipped tree frog ( Li­to­ria in­frafre­nata) is the largest, but shouldn’t be mis­taken for the much more boof-headed green tree frog ( Li­to­ria

caerulea), which is nearly as big. Both of these big green frogs are of­ten found at the top of win­dowsills or in the tops of down­pipes around the house, demon­strat­ing their climb­ing abil­ity.

Mean­while, the diminu­tive Blue Moun­tains tree frog, and var­i­ous oth­ers, go about their dis­tinctly non-ar­bo­real lives, un­aware that our in­creas­ingly in­ad­e­quate clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem has forced us to call them some­thing they al­most def­i­nitely are not.

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