Litoria aurea


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Litoria aurea
Species Authority: (Lesson, 1830)
Common Name(s):
English Golden Bell Frog, Green and Golden Bell Frog, Green and Golden Swamp Frog, Green Frog

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2ace ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Assessor(s): Jean-Marc Hero, Graeme Gillespie, Harold Cogger, Frank Lemckert, Peter Robertson
Reviewer(s): Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson and Neil Cox)
Listed as Vulnerable because of a population decline, estimated to be more than 30% over the last ten years, based on an observed reduction in the number of mature individuals, Area of Occupamcy, number of locations, the extent and quality of its habitats, and the effects of chytridiomycosis and introduced predators.
2002 Vulnerable
1994 Insufficiently Known (Groombridge 1994)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This Australian species has been recorded along the south-east coast from East Gippsland in Victoria, north to approximately Byron Bay in north-east New South Wales (Gillespie 1996; White and Pyke 1996). Most records are from elevations below 100m asl. North of Sydney, there were a few high-elevation records of the species and almost all records were east of the Great Divide (the only discrepant records are from Armidale and Ebor) (White and Pyke 1996). On the Southern Tablelands, the species does not appear to occur above 800m asl (Osborne, Littlejohn and Thomson 1996) and in Victoria the species does not appear to occur above about 670m asl (Gillespie 1996). Populations occur on two offshore islands in New South Wales, Bowen Island in Jervis Bay (Osborne and McElhinney 1996) and Broughton Island north of Port Stephens (New South Wales NPWS Atlas 1998). It remains unknown whether or not these populations are relictual or the result of assisted translocation (Mahony 1999). It has been introduced to New Zealand and is widespread across northern North Island, and pet traders have moved it between the North and South Islands. It is also introduced to New Caledonia and New Hebrides (Tyler 1979).
New Caledonia; New Zealand
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species was formerly considered to be common throughout its range (Tyler 1992). Since about 1960, declines in the distribution and abundance of the species have been observed to the extent that it may now be regarded as rare (White and Pyke 1996). In New South Wales, the species has disappeared completely from all highland areas above 250m asl and coastal populations have been reduced in number and are more isolated from other populations (White and Pyke 1996). Osborne, Littlejohn and Thomson (1996) observed that the species had declined in the Australian Capital Territory and had not been recorded from the Southern Tablelands since 1980. Declines in abundance have been observed in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (White and Pyke 1996; Osborne, Littlejohn and Thomson 1996; Lewis and Goldingay 1999; Goldingay and Lewis 1999), although no similar decline in distribution and abundance in Victoria is so far apparent (Gillespie 1996). Recent censuses of populations throughout the distribution of the species indicate that many are small, with most estimates being less than 20 adults (White and Pyke 1996). In New Zealand, where the species has been introduced, there are many thousands of individuals, but local declines have been observed with chytridiomycosis and introduced Gambusia fish being implicated.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The natural habitat requirements of the species have proved difficult to define because it has been associated with almost every type of water body except fast-flowing streams (Pyke and White 1996). There also appears to be some confusion over whether or not forested habitats are utilized by the species (Lemckert 1996; Gillespie 1996). Pyke and White (1996) examined sites where L. aurea is known to have been present, and compared the habitat at sites where breeding was identified with that at locations where breeding was not identified, in New South Wales. Sites which supported breeding populations were found to contain waterbodies which are still, shallow, ephemeral, unpolluted, unshaded, with aquatic plants and generally free of Gambusia and other predatory fish (but not always); adjacent terrestrial habitats consisted of grassy areas and vegetation no higher than woodlands, and a range of diurnal shelter sites. Breeding occurred in a significantly higher proportion of sites with ephemeral ponds rather than sites with fluctuating or permanent ponds, and where predatory fish were absent. Mahony (1999) commented on the limitations of the study and suggested that the results do not necessarily identify the requirements of the species prior to declines. It is worthy to note that the use of ephemeral breeding sites was not a feature associated with members of the bell frog group in earlier habitat descriptions (Mahony 1999). Pyke and White (1996) suggest that the habitat requirements of L. aurea in New South Wales and Victoria differ. In New South Wales the species occupies disturbed habitats and breeding largely occurs in ephemeral ponds (Pyke and White 1996). However, in Victoria it occupies habitats with little human disturbance and commonly breeds in permanent ponds as well as ephemeral ponds (Pyke and White 1996). Goldingay (1996) argued that this is because most natural habitats are degraded or lost in New South Wales. In Victoria the species is predominantly found on the coastal plains and low foothills of the hinterland where it has been recorded in a range of lentic and terrestrial habitats (Gillespie 1996). Breeding has been documented from dams in both forested and cleared areas, swamps in farmland, gravel pits, billabongs, marshes, coastal lagoon wetlands, wet swale herb lands and isolated stream-side pools (Gillespie 1996). These habitats are mostly permanent, but include some ephemeral waterbodies (Gillespie 1996). All habitats are characterized by stationary water (Gillespie 1996). Virtually all isolated waterbodies are free of native fish species and typically have dense emergent vegetation (Gillespie 1996). It can be found in a variety of terrestrial habitats including lowland forest, banksia woodland, wet heath land, riparian scrub complex, riparian shrubland, riparian forest, damp forest, shrubby dry forest and cleared pastoral lands (Gillespie 1996). It is seasonally active and has been observed from September to early May (Daly 1995). Males call between September and March. Spawn is laid amongst aquatic vegetation and has been observed in December, January and February (Daly 1995). Counts of eight egg masses ranged from 2,463-11,682 eggs (van de Mortel and Goldingay 1998). Eggs hatch within three days and metamorphosis can take from 2-11 months (Daly 1995); however, six weeks appears to be an average duration for the field (R. Goldingay pers. comm.).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is mainly collected as a byproduct of another farming industry.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The cause(s) of the apparent declines observed in populations of all taxa within the L. aurea complex are unclear (Gillespie, Osborne and McElhinney 1995). Investigations of disappearances among the group have primarily focused on L. aurea and L. castanea and two major directions in research have been pursued: the role of increased ultraviolet radiation; and the impact of the introduced fish, Gambusia (Mahony 1999). It is also possible that disease, such as a viral infection or chytrid fungus, might have contributed to the decline of this species (W. Osborne pers. comm.). Chytrid fungus was detected in this species in Hoskinstown and Homebush Bay in Sydney, New South Wales.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There has been a lot of research into threats to the species and movement towards a conservation strategy. Its range includes several protected areas. As an introduced species in New Zealand it has the potential to spread chytridiomycosis to areas inhabited by native frogs. There is a cooperative program between Taronga Zoo and a range of NSW agencies and NGO’s, involving breeding and release at a number of sites close to Sydney. This program is currently under review.

Bibliography [top]

Bell, B.D. 1982. New Zealand frogs. Herpetofauna: 1-21.

Courtice, G.P. and Grigg, G.C. 1975. A taxonomic revision of the Litoria aurea complex (Anura: Hylidae) in southeastern Australia. Australian Zoologist: 149-163.

Daly, G. 1995. Observations on the Green and Golden Bell-Frog Litoria aurea (Anura: Hylidae). Herpetofauna: 2-9.

Gill, B.J., Whitaker, A.H. 1996. New Zealand Frogs and Reptiles. Bateman, Auckland.

Gillespie, G.R. 1996. Distribution, habitat and conservation status of the Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea (Lesson 1829) (Anura: Hylidae) in Victoria. Australian Zoologist: 199-207.

Gillespie, G.R. and Hero, J.M. 1999. Potential Impact of Introduced Fish and Fish Translocations on Australian Amphibians. In: Campbell, A. (ed.), Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs, pp. 131-144. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Gillespie, G.R., Osborne, W.S. and McElhinney, N.A. 1995. The Conservation Status of Frogs in the Australian Alps: a Review. A Report to the Australian Alps Liaison Committee.

Goldingay, R. and Lewis, B. 1999. Development of a conservation strategy for the Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea in the Illawarra Region of New South Wales. Australian Zoologist: 376-387.

Goldingay, R.L. 1996. The Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea – from riches to ruins: conservation of a formerly common species. Australian Zoologist: 248-256.

Hero, J.-M., Littlejohn, M. and Marantelli, G. 1991. Frogwatch Field Guide to Victorian Frogs. Department of Conservation and Environment, Melbourne.

IUCN. 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 23 November 2004.

Lemckert, F. 1996. Surveys for the Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea by the State Forests of New South Wales. Australian Zoologist: 208-213.

Lewis, B. and Goldingay, R. 1999. A preliminary assessment of the status of the Green and Goldern Bell Frog in north-eastern NSW. In: Campbell, A. (ed.), Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs, pp. 94-98. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Mahony, M. 1999. Review of the declines and disappearances within the bell frog species group (Litoria aurea species group) in Australia. In: Campbell, A. (ed.), Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs, pp. 81-93. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Morgan, L.A. and Buttermer, W.A. 1996. Predation by the non-native fish Gambusia holbrooki on small Litoria aurea and L. dentata tadpoles. Australian Journal of Zoology: 143-149.

Murphy, M.J. 1995. A capture/recapture study of the endangered Hylid frog Litoria aurea. Herpetofauna: 19-21.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. 1998. Wildlife Atlas.

Osborne, W.S. and McElhinney, N.A. 1996. Status, habitat and preliminary observations on calling of the Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea on Bowen Island, Jervis Bay National Park. Australian Zoologist: 218-223.

Osborne, W.S., Littlejohn, M.J. and Thomson, S.A. 1996. Former distribution and apparent disappearance of the Litoria aurea complex from the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Australian Zoologist: 190-198.

Pyke, G.H. and White, A.W. 1996. Habitat requirements for the Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea (Anura: Hylidae). Australian Zoologist: 224-232.

Pyke, G.H., White, A.W., Bishop, P.J. and Waldman, B. 2002. Habitat use by the green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) in Australia and New Zealand. The Australian Zoologist: 12-31.

Tyler, M.J. 1979. The impact of European man upon Australasian amphibians. In: Tyler, M.J. (ed.), The status of Australasian Wildlife, pp. 177-184. Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, Northfield.

Tyler, M.J. 1992. Encyclopedia of Australian Animals: Frogs. Collins Angus and Robertson, New South Wales.

Tyler, M.J. 1997. The Action Plan for Australian Frogs. Wildlife Australia, Canberra.

van de Mortel, T.F. and Buttermer, W.A. 1996. Are Litoria aurea eggs more sensitive to ultrviolet-B radiation than eggs of sympatric L. peronii or L. dentata. Australian Zoologist: 150-157.

van de Mortel, T.F. and Goldingay, R. 1996. Population assessment of the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog Litoria aurea at Port Kembla, New South Wales. Australian Zoologist: 398-404.

Webb, C.E. and Joss, J. 1997. Does predation by the fish Gambusia holbrooki (Atheriniformes: Poecilidae) contribute to declining frog populations? Australian Zoologist: 316-324.

Citation: Jean-Marc Hero, Graeme Gillespie, Harold Cogger, Frank Lemckert, Peter Robertson 2004. Litoria aurea. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 28 March 2015.
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