Aussie frogs are hitchhiking around the country and scientists are concerned

By Australian Geographic | May 3, 2019

The data captured through the popular FrogID app is becoming critical to understanding changes to Australian frog distribution.

NEW DATA from a nationwide citizen science project has revealed that our frogs are hitchhiking around the country.

The FrogID app, launched by the Australian Museum in November 2017, asked Australians to go outside and record frog calls.

The app now has over a years worth of data (approximately 66,790 frog calls) and according to frog expert Jodi Rowley, some species of frog have been recorded well beyond their normal range.

The red-eyed tree frog (Litoria chloris), graceful tree frog (Litoria gracilenta) and red tree frog (Litoria rubella) were recorded up to 400km outside their range.

However, it’s the eastern dwarf tree frog (Litoria fallax) that has travelled the furthest.

“…FrogID has added records from a further three locations in Victoria as well as detecting the species for the first time in ACT, 50km from its native range,” Jodi says.

That all four of these species are tree frogs means that they often find themselves on farms, plantations, even garden nurseries, where they can be shipped all around the country.

“It’s estimated that each year thousands of ‘stowaway’ frogs are inadvertently shipped from all around Australia to NSW alone,” Jodi says.

But just because they are native species doesn’t mean this isn’t a problem. When animals such as frogs move outside their native range, ecological destruction can ensue.

We’ve seen this with sugar gliders invading Tasmania and rainbow lorikeets in Perth.

“Hitchhiking frogs…could inadvertently transmit diseases from elsewhere (including the devastating amphibian disease chytridiomycosis) to their new neighbours.”

That so many species of tree frog are hitchhiking around Australia is critical information. Jodi encourages Australians to keep recording frog calls.

The data gathered from the first year of FrogID show not only that we still have a lot to learn about Australia’s frogs, but also that what we do know needs constant updating as things change and, more to the point, move.

“The more people get their phones out and start recording, the greater our understanding will be of these fascinating animals and how to best conserve them.”

You can download the app here.