Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Anura Hylidae

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
Taxonomic Source(s): Frost, D.R. 2014. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 6 (27 January 2014). New York, USA. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2014).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2ace ver 3.1
Year Published: 2004
Date Assessed: 2004-04-30
Needs updating
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.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2002 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
1994 Insufficiently Known (K)

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).
Countries occurrence:
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.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

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.

Citation: Jean-Marc Hero, Graeme Gillespie, Harold Cogger, Frank Lemckert, Peter Robertson. 2004. Litoria aurea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T12143A3325402. . Downloaded on 08 October 2015.
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