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Taudactylus pleione

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA AMPHIBIA ANURA MYOBATRACHIDAE

Scientific Name: Taudactylus pleione
Species Authority: Czechura, 1986
Common Name(s):
English Kroombit Tinker Frog

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(v)+2ab(v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Assessor(s): Jean-Marc Hero, Harry Hines, Ed Meyer, Michael Cunningham, John Clarke
Reviewer(s): Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson and Neil Cox)
Justification:
Listed as Critically Endangered because its Extent of Occurrence is less than 100 km2 and its Area Of Occupancy is less than 10km2, all individuals are in a single location, and there is continuing decline in the number of mature individuals (possibly due to chytridiomycosis).
History:
2002 Critically Endangered
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Insufficiently Known (Groombridge 1994)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The distribution of this species, an Australian endemic, is extremely restricted and is confined to nine small (up to 54ha) unconnected patches of rainforest (totalling about 200ha) above 500m asl at Kroombit Tops, south-west of Gladstone (Clarke et al. 1999; J. Clarke pers. comm.). It is believed to be a relict species, restricted to Kroombit Tops through habitat fragmentation that disrupted rainforest connections between south and north-east Queensland (Czechura 1986a). Within the rainforest patches, populations are clumped around drainage lines and seepage areas (J. Clarke pers. comm.). The extent of occurrence is estimated to be 18km² and the area of occupancy is estimated to be 60ha (J. Clarke pers. comm). Surveys in February 1997 and regular surveys since 1998 have greatly expanded the known distribution of the species (Clarke et al. 1999; J. Clarke pers. comm.). All potential sites on the Kroombit Tableland and escarpment have been searched at least once during the calling season although additional potential habitat for the species exists on the Dawes Range and Mount Roberts (M. Cunningham pers. comm.). To date, surveys of suitable habitat on the Dawes Range and Mount Roberts have failed to find this species (E. Meyer pers. comm.).
Countries:
Native:
Australia
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The only regularly monitored population, in the head of Kroombit Creek, appears to have declined (Hines, Mahony and McDonald 1999). The species was regularly encountered at this site prior to 1997 but was not heard or seen at this site during the 1997/1998 seasons despite systematic monitoring (Clarke et al. 1999). Data from monitoring transects on Kroombit Plateau indicate a significant decline in numbers over the past 6-7 years, and numbers upstream have declined dramatically since 1997 (E. Meyer pers. comm.). During 1997/1998 little other monitoring work was undertaken in the area but the species was heard calling at three recently discovered sites (Hines, Mahony and McDonald 1999). Estimates of population size are highly conjectural with no more than 13 individuals being recorded from one site at any one time, and only three females have ever been recorded (J. Clarke pers. comm.). No information is available on population structure, genetic variation or metapopulation dynamics. Some populations are almost certainly isolated from others but this has not yet been shown.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The species is highly cryptic and mainly associated with Piccabeen Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) rainforest and boulder scree gullies (Czechura 1986a; Clarke et al. 1999; Meyer, Hines and Hero 2001c). It is found around rocky shelves and boulders, under rocks. or in deep rock piles near temporary streamlines, seepage zones, and in sheltered rocky scree (Clarke et al. 1999). Most sites have little or no surface water (J.M. Clarke pers. comm.). It has never been observed basking (Czechura 1986b). Activity seems to be initiated by the first heavy falls of rain during the spring-summer period (Czechura 1996a). Calling has been heard between September and March, with calling peaks on warm, wet nights from September to February (Clarke et al. 1999; J. Clarke pers. comm.). Calling is usually most intense at dusk and early evening (Czechura 1986a; Borsboom, Clarke and Cunningham 1998; Clarke et al. 1999) although the species will call all night and all day if conditions are suitable (J. Clarke pers. comm.). The males usually call partially or completely concealed in rock crevices or under leaf-litter and often exhibit territorial behaviour by segregating themselves along the stream (Czechura 1986a), although the species is frequently recorded away from streams or seepages (J. Clarke pers. comm.). Only three gravid females have ever been found: one (the holotype) in early February, another in mid-January and a third (partly gravid) in early December (Clarke et al. 1999; E. Meyer pers. comm.). Large unpigmented eggs were visible through the abdominal wall of specimens found in late January and December (Meyer, Hines and Hero 2001c). Eggs, tadpoles and oviposition sites have not been observed (Clarke et al. 1999). It almost certainly does not breed in streams (H. Hines and E. Meyer pers. comm.). Despite regular searching along creeks, tadpoles of the species have never been found (E. Meyer pers. comm.). The large eggs moreover suggest direct or partially direct development (E. Meyer pers. comm.). The species occurs in situations where water is highly ephemeral, or doesn't pool above the ground (e.g., steep rocky slopes) (E. Meyer pers. comm.). Thus, it seems likely that breeding takes place at the bottom of rock piles, which retain water even when there is little or no surface water available (E. Meyer pers. comm.).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The apparent low population, isolation and extremely restricted distribution of the species make it highly susceptible to demographic instability, disturbance and extinction. Clarke et al. (1999) and Borsboom, Clarke and Cunningham (1998) list five main potential threats to the species: wildfire; domestic and feral animals (as mentioned above); unknown agent(s) responsible for declines of other Queensland frogs; visitor pressure and timber harvesting. Timber harvesting has ceased in the catchments above all known populations (Hines, Mahony and McDonald 1999), but might be a threat to any new populations on leasehold land. Visitor numbers are low at present, but increased visitation might disrupt breeding or impact on habitat. A high-intensity wildfire in 1994 burned into many rainforest patches used by the species (Hines, Mahony and McDonald 1999). A later flood altered stream hydrology and removed leaf-litter in the area (Clarke et al. 1999). The wildfire might be partially responsible for the decline of the species at the monitoring site (Hines, Mahony and McDonald 1999). Modified fire management procedures have now been put in place to reduce the risk of further high-intensity fires (Hines, Mahony and McDonald 1999). Chytrid fungus, a disease found by Berger et al. (1998) to be associated with frog deaths and declines elsewhere in Australia and Central America, was isolated from animals of a sympatric species (Litoria pearsonia). Clarke et al. (1999) and Borsboom, Clarke and Cunningham (1998) list domestic cattle, horses and feral pigs as potential threats to the species. The majority of the Kroombit Tops State Forest is under grazing lease and stock pose a threat to the species mainly through the destruction of habitat and fouling of water (Clarke et al. 1999). A fence has been constructed to exclude stock, but impacts at the head of Kroombit Creek continue. Feral pigs, which might prey upon this species, destroy habitat and act as potential vectors of chytrid fungus (by carrying infected mud to new sites), and have recently been found at all sites occupied by this species (J. Clarke pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Much of the species' habitat is protected within Kroombit Tops State Forest Scientific Area No 48. It is listed as endangered in Australian legislation. Research and monitoring of the populations is in place.

Citation: Jean-Marc Hero, Harry Hines, Ed Meyer, Michael Cunningham, John Clarke 2004. Taudactylus pleione. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 August 2014.
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