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The red-crowned toadlet is a small frog species found in sandstone forests across the Sydney region. The scientific name for this species is Pseudophryne australis.
Red-crowned toadlets measure up to 3 cm long, and are dark brown or black in colour with a distinctive red T-shaped patch on their head and another red patch along their rump. Its belly is marbled black and white.
Red-crowned toadlets can also be distinguished from other amphibians based on their call, which sounds like an ‘ark’ or ‘squelch’ sound. Red-crowned toadlets can be heard all year round.
Red-crowned toadlets live in damp areas of sandstone open forests in colonies of 20-30 individuals. Red-crowned toadlets take shelter in crevices and under rocks and logs, and forage in thick piles of leaf litter.
During the breeding season, red-crowned toadlets gather in areas of dense vegetation near creeks and gutters.
During long dry periods, red-crowned toadlets use their strong hind feet to dig beneath the soil where there is more moisture.
Red-crowned toadlets are an example of a ‘cryptic’ species, meaning they are difficult to find. They rarely come out in the open, even at night. The toadlets move between cracks in the sandstone or beneath the leaf litter.
Despite their small size, red-crowned toadlets are carnivores. They eat small leaf litter invertebrates such as thrips, springtails, small ants and termites. The average red-crowned toadlet may eat six termites in one day!
Red-crowned toadlets are known to be prey items for snakes and bandicoots.
Many birds and reptiles are unable to eat red-crowned toadlets because they are toxic! The red colouring of the toadlet is structural adaptation that acts as a warning signal to potential predators.
Red-crowned toadlets breed in spring and summer, usually after rain.
Unlike many amphibians, red-crowned toadlets lay their eggs on land. The female lays approximately 20 eggs in a nest made under damp leaf litter, or in small log holes close to a water source.
Some male toadlets have been seen guarding their nest.
Red-crowned toadlets begin their life as jelly-like eggs.
Baby frogs are called tadpoles. This is the larval stage of the amphibian life cycle. As red-crowned toadlets do not live in water, most of the development of red-crowned toadlet tadpoles takes place inside the egg where there is enough moisture.
When it rains, the partially developed tadpoles are released from their nests into a nearby pool of water. The tadpoles do not look like adults. They are black, have a tail, and are sometimes longer than the adults.
Over the course of up to three months, the tadpoles metamorphose into adults. The tadpoles grow legs and lose their tail.
Adult red-crowned toadlets are relatively long-lived amphibians. Males live 7-8 years, whilst females live up to 15 years!
Red-crowned toadlets are also affected by the deadly chytrid fungus.
To protect this species, it is important for us to protect their habitat from being cleared or damaged, reduce pollutants from enterring local waterways, and minimise the effects of climate change.
FrogID, n.d. Pseudophryne australis. [online] FrogID. Available at: <https://www.frogid.net.au/frogs/pseudophryne-australis>.
FrogID Team, 2021. Red-crowned toadlet. [online] Australian Museum. Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/frogs/red-crowned-toadlet/>.
NSW Office of Environment & Heritage. 2017. Red-crowned toadlet - profile. [online] Available at: <https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedSpeciesApp/profile.aspx?id=10692>.
Termites are a main source of food for red-crowned toadlets - "Termites" by Gnilenkov Aleksey. CC BY 2.0
The bright red patches of the red-crowned toadlet ward off predators. - "Pseudophryne australis frog_5885" by eyeweed. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A clutch of red-crowned toadlet eggs - "Pseudophryne australis eggs" by Doug Beckers. CC BY-SA 2.0
Red-crowned toadlet eggs - "Pseudophryne australis eggs" by Doug Beckers. CC BY-SA 2.0
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