Desert frogs: part 1

Cyclorana platycephala & Cyclorana australis

Desert frogs aren’t uncommon, they just need specific conditions to be easily found. They can be the most abundant vertebrate in the deserts, even on some sand plains where you wouldn’t expect them to appear. Maybe this is what makes finding them so exciting. 

The first desert frog we are featuring in our Stories of the desert blog is Cyclorana platycephala – a water holding frog. 

These frogs emerge from deep underground after exceptional rainfall and it can be years between appearances in some areas.

Its specific name means ‘flat head’ which is based on the Greek language.

This species is widespread in arid areas, particularly where there are clay soils.

This picture was taken at night in northern South Australia with a twin flash kit and a macro lens. 

Our second desert frog is this cracking beast – a giant burrowing frog, or Cyclorana australis. This one was found on the highway near Tennant Creek after good rain. 

I’m pretty sure to take this photo I would have been lying on my belly in the mud, on the side of the highway in the middle of the night in the region that gave part of the inspiration for the movie ‘Wolf Creek’.

There are often so many of these frogs that they just get driven around when spotlighting but this one was exceptionally large. It would have taken both my hands to pick it up.

It’s an amazing life cycle, with long periods of nothing punctuated by short periods of frantic activity, with the added bonus of being a prime food item for every snake in the desert.

Like other desert frogs they can spend extended periods of time in aestivation underground. Effectively, they ‘hibernate’ until conditions are suitable for them to re-emerge. Then they breed frantically, feed and return underground.  The young spend their brief tadpole life in water, metamorphose and attempt to put on enough size to make it through to the next wet season. That could be years away.  It’s an amazing life cycle, with long periods of nothing punctuated by short periods of frantic activity, with the added bonus of being a prime food item for every snake in the desert.

I remember a book from when I was a kid telling the story of Tiddilick, the water holding frog that was greedy and drank all the water for itself. It would be worth looking for if you have young kids to entertain.

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