Clicks, bonks and dripping taps: listen to the calls of 6 frogs out and about this summer

The banjo frog, Limnodynastes dumerilii
Jodi Rowley, Author provided

Jodi Rowley, Australian Museum

Environmental scientists see flora, fauna and phenomena the rest of us rarely do. In this series, we’ve invited them to share their unique photos from the field.

Frog calls are iconic sounds of summer in Australia. There are more than 240 species native to Australia, almost all of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

While some of Australia’s frog species prefer the cooler months, spring and summer are the best times to see and hear the majority of them. This is particularly true in tropical Australia, where most frog species only emerge from their hiding places in the wet season, filling summer nights with their choruses.

Most of us will hear frogs before we see them. In all Australian frog species, male frogs call to attract female frogs to mate with. Each species has a unique advertisement call, so you don’t need to see a frog to identify it.

Males typically call from near water bodies, where they hope to breed, and call mostly at night, preferring to shelter in the heat of the day. As a result, the best place to encounter frogs is near a water body such as a pond, creek or wetland, and the best time is after dark.

This article contains recordings of six unique frog calls. Depending where you live, you might just hear one on a quiet, summer night. But first, let’s explore why frogs are so important to our ecosystems.

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From rainforests to deserts

Frogs are exquisitely adapted to almost all kinds of habitats in Australia, from rainforests to deserts. In some of the wettest forests, some frogs such as the northern ornate nursery frog (Cophixalus ornatus) have done away with the need for tadpoles, developing into tiny frogs in the egg.

The stonemason toadlet, Uperoleia lithomoda
Jodi Rowley, Author provided

In the driest parts of Australia, where it doesn’t rain for months at a time, frog species such as the eastern water-holding frog (Cyclorana platycephala) spend most of their lives underground. These frogs are protected from dehydration by a “cocoon” of their own skin and skin secretions. They only pop above the surface when it’s wet enough for them to breed in the flood waters.

While many species are common, more than 30 are threatened with extinction. On top of that, we’ve already lost at least four species — part of out natural heritage, gone forever.

The major frog threats are disease (particularly chytridiomycosis, caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus), habitat loss and modification, introduced species and climate change.

We should care that our frogs are disappearing, as they are an important part of healthy ecosystems. Frogs are major consumers of invertebrates, and are also eaten by a wide array of predators including fish, birds and mammals. Tadpoles may also be the dominant grazers in aquatic systems, helping keep streams from clogging up with algae. When frogs disappear, other animals follow, and ecosystems are forever altered.

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When meeting your local frogs, be careful not to disturb them or their habitat, and clean your shoes if going to more than one area of frog habitat so you don’t accidentally spread frog disease. One of the best ways to learn about your local frogs, and to help understand and conserve them, is by recording their calls using the free FrogID app.

Here are some of the frog species you are likely to hear, and maybe even see, this summer.

1. Peron’s tree frog

Peron’s tree frog (Litoria peronii) is a large frog species that can be found in southern Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and southeastern South Australia.

With cream to dark grey skin flecked with tiny emerald spots, cross-shaped pupils, and a loud, laugh-like call, this frog species is very commonly encountered around our homes — often hiding in pot plants, watering cans or even our letterboxes.

2. Motorbike frog

While the haunting call of the moaning frog (Heleioporus eyrei) fills autumn and winter nights around Perth, the motorbike frog (Litoria moorei) makes up a large part of Perth’s summer soundtrack.

Common in backyards throughout the southwest of Western Australia, this species is named after its drawn-out call, resembling an old motorbike racing up the street, changing gears.

This large tree frog, variably marbled with green and gold, often basks in the sun on reeds during the day.

3. Striped marsh frog

The striped marsh frog (Limnodynastes peronii) is commonly heard but rarely seen throughout its range along eastern Australia from north Queensland to Tasmania, and into the eastern edge of South Australia.

Its call is familiar to many, resembling a tennis ball being hit, or a dripping tap. This species loves backyard ponds, and is found even in the most built-up areas of cities, creating foamy nests for their eggs after a successful night of calling.

Adults have smooth, striped brown skin, and long, spidery toes. Males can be distinguished by females as they have much more robust arms.

4. Banjo frog

Banjo frogs occur throughout much of Australia, with a familiar loud “bonk” call, somewhat resembling the pluck of a banjo string reverberating from dams, wetlands and slow-flowing sections of streams and rivers.

During dry times, banjo frogs bury themselves underground, emerging after, or sometimes just before, summer rains. They are large, rather solid, frogs with a round snout, and are often mistaken for cane toads.

There are four species of banjo frog. In the southeast, the eastern banjo frog (Limnodynastes dumerilii) is very common, particularly in farm dams. Meanwhile, the northern banjo frog (Limnodynastes terraereginae) lives in northern NSW and throughout much of Queensland.

The giant banjo frog (Limnodynastes interioris) can be found in inland NSW and Victoria, and the western banjo frog (Limnodynastes dorsalis) is found in southwestern Western Australia.

5. Stonemason toadlet

The stonemason toadlet (Uperoleia lithomoda) is a tiny brownish-grey burrowing frog found across the top of Australia: in north Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

This species emerges from underground after heavy monsoonal rains, and males produces an extraordinarily loud call that sounds like a harsh “click”.

With bumpy skin, they resemble toads enough to be called “toadlets”, and are often mistaken for young cane toads (Rhinella marina).

6. Eastern dwarf tree frog

The eastern dwarf tree frog (Litoria fallax) is highly adaptable and usually found along the east coast, from north Queensland to the borders of NSW and Victoria.

In recent years, it has also established populations in Victoria, well outside its native range, likely as a result of hitchhiking on produce or nursery plants.

Like the motorbike frog, the eastern dwarf tree frog is often seen during the day, basking in the sun, and will even call during the day on vegetation far from water.

The Conversation

Jodi Rowley, Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Bzzz, slap! How to treat insect bites (home remedies included)


Cameron Webb, University of Sydney

It’s the holidays and we’re spending more time outdoors. This means we’re exposed to the more annoying and painful aspects of summer — insect bites and stings.

There are plenty of products at the local pharmacy to treat these. Some treat the initial bite or sting, others the itchy aftermath.

What about natural remedies? Few studies have actually examined them. But if they work for you, and don’t irritate already inflamed skin, there’s likely no harm in continuing.

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Why do insects bite and sting?

When insects bite and sting, they are either defending themselves or need something from us (like blood).

Whatever the motivation, it can leave us with a painful or itchy reaction, sometimes a severe allergic reaction, or even a debilitating disease.

While insects sometimes get a bad rap, there are relatively few that actually pose a serious threat to our health.

Flies, mosquitoes

Many types of flies, especially mosquitoes, bite. In most instances, they need blood for nutrition or the development of eggs. The method of “biting” can vary between the different types of flies. While mosquitoes inject a needle-like tube to suck our blood, others chew or rasp away at our skin.

While researchers have studied what happens when mosquitoes bite, there is still much to learn about how to treat the bites.

So, avoiding mosquito bites is especially important given some can transmit pathogens that make us sick.

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We still have lots to learn about treating mosquito bites.
A/Prof Cameron Webb

Fleas, lice, mites and ticks

There are lots of other insects (such as bed bugs, fleas, lice) and other arthropods (such as mites, ticks) that bite.

But it is difficult to determine which insect has bitten us based on the bite reaction alone. This is generally because different people react in different ways to the saliva injected as they start to suck our blood.

Bees, wasps, ants

Then there are stinging insects, such as bees, wasps and ants. These are typically just defending themselves.

But as well as being painful, the venom they inject when they sting can cause potentially severe allergic reactions.

How do you best treat a sting or bite?

If you suffer potentially severe allergic reactions from bites or stings, immediately seek appropriate medical treatment. But for many other people, it is the initial painful reaction and itchy aftermath that require attention.

Despite how common insect bites can be, there is surprisingly little formal research into how best to treat them. Most of the research is focused on insect-borne diseases.

Even for recommended treatments, there is little evidence they actually work. Instead, recommendations are based on expert opinion and clinical experience.

For instance, heath authorities promote some general advice on treating insect bites and stings. This includes using pain relief medication (such as paracetamol or ibuprofen). They also advise applying a cold compress (such as a cold pack, ice, or damp cloth soaked in cold water) to the site of the sting or bite to help reduce the inflammation and to ease some of the discomfort.

Refreshing red drink in glass with ice cubes and lemon
Ice cubes aren’t just for summer cocktails. They can help reduce inflammation from insect bites and stings.

There is also specific advice for dealing with stings and removing ticks.

However, if you do nothing, the discomfort of the bite or sting will eventually fade after a few days. The body quickly recovers, just as it would for a cut or bruise.

If you’re still in pain for more than a couple of days, or there are signs of an allergic reaction, seek medical assistance.

What about the itch?

Once the initial pain has started to fade, the itch starts. That’s because the body is reacting to the saliva injected when insects bite.

For many people, this is incredibly frustrating and it is all too easy to get trapped in a cycle of itching and scratching.

In some cases, medications, such as corticosteroid creams or antihistamines could help alleviate the itchiness. You can buy these from the pharmacy.

Then there’s calamine lotion, a mainstay in many Australian homes used to treat the itchiness caused by insect bites. But there are few studies that demonstrate it works.

Read more:
Are itchier insect bites more likely to make us sick?

Do any home remedies work?

If you’re looking for a home remedy to treat insect bites and the itchiness that comes with it, a quick internet search will keep you busy for days.

Potential home remedies include: tea bags, banana, tea tree or other essential oils, a paste of baking soda, vinegar, aloe vera, oatmeal, honey and even onion.

There is little evidence any of these work. But not many have actually been scientifically evaluated.

Tea tree oil is one of the few. While it is said to help treat skin reactions, the oil itself can cause skin reactions if not used as directed.

However, if a home remedy works for you, and it’s not causing additional irritation, there’s no harm in using it if you’re getting some relief.

With so much uncertainty about how to treat insect bites and stings, perhaps it is best if we avoid exposure in the first place. There are plenty of insect repellents available at your local pharmacy or supermarket that do this safely and effectively.The Conversation

Cameron Webb, Clinical Associate Professor and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.