Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Relatively little is known about the ecology of this species. The breeding season occurs from October to January, when males call from water seepages or in large water-filled hollows and shallow pools (3). Females lay an average of 81 eggs singly; these are often supported on algal mats just below the surface of the water. The tadpoles are free-swimming but may be benthic specialists (7).
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Description

The sunset frog was first discovered in Western Australia as recently as 1994 and was scientifically described in 1997. It is so called because of its striking appearance; it is dark purplish-black above, with bright orange and blue on its belly, reminiscent of the colours at sunset (3). This small frog produces a deep 'dadukk dadukk' croak (3). This species is the only member of the genus Spicospina, and differs greatly from other Australian frogs in colour (orange and blue ventral surface) and appearance (massive glands behind the head) (4).
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Distribution

Range Description

This species, an Australian endemic, was discovered in 1994 (Roberts et al. 1997). When first described in 1997, the species was only known from three well-separated peat swamps in the south-west corner of Western Australia (Roberts et al. 1997). However, survey work undertaken from 1997 to 2000 increased the number of known populations to 27, all occurring near the Western Australia south coast, east and north-east of Walpole (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999; Burbidge and Roberts 2001). This species has a small area of occupancy (135ha) and a very fragmented range (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999; Burbidge and Roberts 2001).
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Distribution and Habitat

Population and Distribution
Spicospina flammocaerulea was discovered in 1994 (Roberts et al. 1997). When first described in 1997, the species was only known from three well separated peat swamps in the s.w. corner of WA (Roberts et al. 1997). However, survey work undertaken from 1997 to 2000 raised the number of known populations to 27, all occurring near the WA s. coast, e. and n.e. of Walpole (Roberts et al. 1999; Burbidge & Roberts 2001). This species has a limited area of occurrence (approximately 305 km2), small area of occupancy (135 ha) and fragmented range (Roberts et al. 1999; Burbidge & Roberts 2001). No reliable data on population size is available, however, counts of males have been recorded at several sites from 1994-1997 (Roberts et al. 1999). Surveys of calling males usually report less then ten individuals, however 150 males were estimated to be present at Trent Road (Bow R.) in 1997 (Roberts et al. 1997). An apparent decline in the number of calling males has been recorded at Mountain Road (n. and s.) where 120 males were observed calling in 1994 and three years later only 2 males were recorded (Roberts et al. 1999). The actual population size at sites with few or no calling males is unknown (D. Roberts pers. comm.). Two sites with a long history of visitation and no calling activity contained individuals in 2000 (D. Roberts pers. comm.).

Fourteen populations are on private property n., w. and e. of Bow Bridge, with the remainder in the Mt Franklin NP or on land designated to form part of the Mt Roe-Mt Lindesay NP but not yet declared (Roberts et al. 1999; D. Roberts pers. comm.).

Habitat
Spicospina flammocaerulea is a habitat specialist. The region from which S. flammocaerulea has been recorded is thought to have undergone a change from a subtropical wet to a seasonally arid climate about 5 to 6 million years ago and the peat swamps where the species occurs are considered to be relicts of an earlier environment (Wardell-Johnson et al. 1996). The persistence of the species in well separated swamps is no doubt attributable to this change in environment (Wardell-Johnson et al. 1996). The species is found in isolated and permanently moist peat based swamps with organically-rich soils (Roberts et al. 1997), in a high rainfall area of moderate relief with granite outcrops and associated ranges of hills rising to 300-400m (Roberts et al. 1999). These sites have a high moisture content in the soil and are protected from climatic extremes, often by local seepages that maintain water availability uncharacteristically into spring and summer (Roberts et al. 1997).

  • Roberts, D., Conroy, S., and Williams, K. (1999). ''Conservation status of frogs in Western Australia.'' Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. A. Campbell, eds., Environment Australia, Canberra, 177-184.
  • Burbidge, A.A. and Roberts, J.D. (2001). Sunset Frog Recovery Plan 2001-2005. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australian Threatened Species and Communities Unit.
  • Roberts, J.D., Horwitz, P., Wardell-Johnson, G., Maxson, L.R., and Mahony, M.J. (1997). ''Taxonomy, relationships and conservation of a new genus and species of myobatrachid frog from the high rainfall region of southwestern Australia.'' Copeia, 1997, 373-381.
  • Wardell-Johnson, G., Roberts, D., and Horwitz, P. (1996). ''The Sunset Frog.'' Nature Australia, Spring 1996, 24-25.
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Range

When this species was first discovered, it was only known from three sites in south-west Western Australia. Since then, surveys have brought the total number of likely populations to 27, all of which are located near the southern coast of Western Australia. The range of this frog is highly fragmented and it occupies a very restricted area. There is at present a lack of data on the absolute size of known populations (5).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Spicospina flammocaerulea is a habitat specialist. The region from which it has been recorded is thought to have undergone a change from a subtropical wet to a seasonally arid climate about 5 to 6 million years ago and the peat swamps where the species occurs are considered to be relicts of an earlier environment (Wardell-Johnson, Roberts and Horwitz 1996). The persistence of the species in well-separated swamps is no doubt attributable to this change in environment (Wardell-Johnson, Roberts and Horwitz 1996). The species is found in isolated and permanently moist peat-based swamps with organically rich soils (Roberts et al. 1997), in a high rainfall area of moderate relief with granite outcrops and associated ranges of hills rising to 300-400m asl (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999). These sites have high moisture content in the soil and are protected from climatic extremes, often by local seepages that maintain water availability uncharacteristically into spring and summer (Roberts et al. 1997). Males call between October and December from shallow pools, water seepages, large hollows containing water, or in open water along creek margins (Wardell-Johnson, Roberts and Horwitz 1996; Roberts et al. 1997). Less than 200 eggs are deposited singly and may be supported by algal mats just below the waters surface (Roberts et al. 1997). The tadpole stage is presumably free swimming (Roberts et al. 1997). Explosive breeding appears unlikely as numbers of calling males have been observed to remain relatively stable over extended periods throughout the breeding season at some sites (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The sunset frog occupies a very specialised habitat. It is found in permanently moist peat swamps which may be relics of an earlier wet landscape with summer rainfall patterns that changed to a seasonally dry summer climate around 10-12 million years ago. The remaining peat bogs in which this frog lives are kept moist throughout the year, often as a result of seepages of water. Within the bogs, sunset frogs are typically found in the water seepages, in pools and along drainage lines. Modern peat swamps may represent the closest approximation available to Miocene summer wet climates (6).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Spicospina flammocaerulea

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
D2

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2004

Assessor/s
Dale Roberts, Jean-Marc Hero

Reviewer/s
Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson and Neil Cox)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Vulnerable because its area of occupancy is less than 20 km2.

History
  • 2002
    Vulnerable
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Status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU D2) by the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and listed on Schedule 1 of the Western Australia Wildlife Conservation Act (2).
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Population

Population
No reliable data on population size are available, however, counts of males have been recorded at several sites from 1994-1997 (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999). Surveys of calling males usually report less then ten individuals, however, 150 males were estimated to be present at Trent Road (Bow River) in 1997 (Roberts et al. 1997). An apparent decline in the number of calling males has been recorded at Mountain Road (north and south) where 120 males were observed calling in 1994 and three years later only two males were recorded (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999). The actual population size at sites with few or no calling males is unknown (D. Roberts pers. comm.). Two sites with a long history of visitation and no calling activity contained individuals in 2000 (D. Roberts pers. comm.). Overall, there is little evidence of a decline, and the population is probably stable (D. Roberts pers. comm.).

Population Trend
Stable
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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Reproduction
Males call between Oct. and Dec. from shallow pools, water seepages, large hollows containing water or in open water along creek margins (Wardell-Johnson et al. 1996; Roberts et al. 1997). Less than 200 eggs are deposited singly and may be supported by algal mats just below the waters surface (Roberts et al. 1997). The tadpole stage is presumably free swimming (Roberts et al. 1997). Explosive breeding appears unlikely as numbers of calling males have been observed to remain relatively stable over extended periods throughout the breeding season at some sites (Roberts et al. 1999).

Invasive species
Excavation by feral pigs are common in swamps close to the type locality and pigs may have a direct impact on frog survival (Roberts et al. 1997). However, monitoring of known populations and adjacent control sites from 1997-1998 has shown little indication of pig damage (Roberts et al. 1999).

  • Roberts, D., Conroy, S., and Williams, K. (1999). ''Conservation status of frogs in Western Australia.'' Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. A. Campbell, eds., Environment Australia, Canberra, 177-184.
  • Burbidge, A.A. and Roberts, J.D. (2001). Sunset Frog Recovery Plan 2001-2005. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australian Threatened Species and Communities Unit.
  • Roberts, J.D., Horwitz, P., Wardell-Johnson, G., Maxson, L.R., and Mahony, M.J. (1997). ''Taxonomy, relationships and conservation of a new genus and species of myobatrachid frog from the high rainfall region of southwestern Australia.'' Copeia, 1997, 373-381.
  • Wardell-Johnson, G., Roberts, D., and Horwitz, P. (1996). ''The Sunset Frog.'' Nature Australia, Spring 1996, 24-25.
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Threats

Major Threats
An extremely small geographic range makes this species particularly susceptible to local catastrophes. An apparent decline in frog numbers at one locality (Mountain Road, Mount Franklin National Park) following wildfires in 1994 suggests a possible risk from fire (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999). Frequency of fire varies between localities but the majority of sites have experienced wildfires in the last 50 years (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999). This suggests some capacity to recover post-fire but the time and conditions required for full recovery, which could set an optimal fire interval and intensity regime, are unknown (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999). Fires, which burn the substrate (peaty swamps), or changing fire regimes, which lead to a greater propensity of substrate ignition, might well be detrimental to the persistence of the species (Roberts et al. 1997). Loss of vegetation through fire or disease (such as the fungus Phytophthora) might alter soil water tables affecting both availability of breeding sites and peat formation and maintenance (Wardell-Johnson, Roberts and Horwitz 1996; Roberts et al. 1997). Excavation by feral pigs is common in swamps close to the type locality and pigs might have a direct impact on frog survival (Roberts et al. 1997). However, monitoring of known populations and adjacent control sites from 1997-1998 has shown little indication of pig damage (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999).
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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

An extremely small geographic range makes this species particularly susceptible to local catastrophes. An apparent decline in frog numbers at one locality (Mountain Road, Mt Franklin NP) following wildfires in 1994 suggests a possible risk from fire (Roberts et al. 1999). Frequency of fire varies between localities but the majority of sites have experienced wildfires in the last 50 years (Roberts et al. 1999). This suggests some capacity to recover post-fire but the time and conditions required for full recovery, which could set an optimal fire interval and intensity regime, are unknown (Roberts et al. 1999). Fires which burn the substrate (peaty swamps) or fire regimes which lead to a greater propensity of substrate ignition, may well be detrimental to the persistence of the species (Roberts et al. 1997). Loss of vegetation through fire or disease (such as the fungus Phytophthora) may alter soil water tables affecting both availability of breeding sites and peat formation and maintenance (Wardell-Johnson et al. 1996; Roberts et al. 1997). Fourteen populations are on private property n., w. and e. of Bow Bridge, with the remainder in the Mount Franklin NP or on land designated to form part of the Mount Roe-Mount Lindesay NP but not yet declared (Roberts et al. 1999; D. Roberts pers. comm.). There are no threats to populations on publicly owned lands that cannot be controlled by appropriate management but there has been no analysis of threats to populations found on private property (Roberts et al. 1999). Fieldwork is currently being undertaken to evaluate declines and variation in population size by assessing population size more directly using mark-recapture techniques and surveys of tadpole populations (Roberts et al. 1999).

  • Roberts, D., Conroy, S., and Williams, K. (1999). ''Conservation status of frogs in Western Australia.'' Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. A. Campbell, eds., Environment Australia, Canberra, 177-184.
  • Burbidge, A.A. and Roberts, J.D. (2001). Sunset Frog Recovery Plan 2001-2005. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australian Threatened Species and Communities Unit.
  • Roberts, J.D., Horwitz, P., Wardell-Johnson, G., Maxson, L.R., and Mahony, M.J. (1997). ''Taxonomy, relationships and conservation of a new genus and species of myobatrachid frog from the high rainfall region of southwestern Australia.'' Copeia, 1997, 373-381.
  • Wardell-Johnson, G., Roberts, D., and Horwitz, P. (1996). ''The Sunset Frog.'' Nature Australia, Spring 1996, 24-25.
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The very restricted and highly fragmented geographic range of the sunset frog makes it extremely vulnerable to chance events, such as disease or freak weather. However, reports that fires caused a decline in the population size at one site (8) were not substantiated when this site was burnt again in the summer of 2002-2003 and frogs bred after the fire (6). Indeed, although wildfire can ignite peat in peat swamps there is also evidence of populations persisting for long periods post fire and that fire can induce breeding activity (9). Further threats may include introduced feral pigs, which may damage breeding habitat, and inappropriate land management, such as over-grazing, killing vegetation, or inappropriate fire regimes (3) (6). Outbreaks of dieback fungus, Phytophthora cinnamomi, could also pose a significant threat to the species (6). The fact that the populations are so fragmented could result in genetic problems due to inbreeding (3), but there are no reliable data on population size or connectedness (6).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Fourteen populations are on private property north, west and east of Bow Bridge, with the remainder in the Mount Franklin National Park or on land designated to form part of the Mount Roe-Mount Lindesay National Park but not yet declared (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999; D. Roberts pers. comm.). There are no threats to populations on publicly owned lands that cannot be controlled by appropriate management but there has been no analysis of threats to populations found on private property (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999). Fieldwork is currently being undertaken to evaluate declines and variation in population size by assessing population size more directly using mark-recapture techniques and surveys of tadpole populations (Roberts, Conroy and Williams 1999).
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Conservation

This frog is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because of its highly restricted range. With regards to the conservation of this species, perhaps the most pressing requirement at present is to increase knowledge of its distribution and the threats facing it, allowing accurate estimates of population size and in effective conservation measures to be devised. Research and monitoring to this end is on-going. In addition, many of the sites supporting this species are situated within national parks, or state forest so the species receives a high level of protection in over two thirds of its known range (8)
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Wikipedia

Spicospina

First discovered in the year 1994, the Aussie Sunset Frog (Spicospina flammocaerulea) is a species of ground-dwelling frog native to south-west Western Australia, Australia.[1] It is the only species in the genus Spicospina. It is known from only 27 sites, all occurring east and northeast of Walpole.

Description[edit]

Spicospina flammocaerulea is a smaller species, with a snout-vent length of 31-36 in the females and males growing to 29.5-34.8 mm. The physical appearance and colouration differs greatly from all other Australian frog species. It is a dark-purple to black or very dark grey on the dorsal surface. There are orange markings below the vent, around the margins of the body and on the hands and feet. The throat, chest and the underside of the hands and feet are also orange. The back is granular with lots of raised glands, a large parotoid gland is located behind each eye. The belly has vivid light blue spotting on a dark background which is smooth. The fingers and toes are free from webbing and pads.

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

The Sunset Frog is only found in isolated permanently moist peat swamps, in high rainfall areas. These sites have high moisture content and are often protected from drier conditions by seepages that provide water even through the drier seasons (Spring and Summer). Males call between October and December from shallow pools, water seepages or in open water along creek margins. They make a rapidly repeated "dd-duk-duk". Females lay less than 200 eggs that are deposited singly often supported by algae mats just below the surface of the water.

Conservation efforts[edit]

On the 19th of December 2011, the DEC in combination with Perth Zoo released 31 captive-bred endangered sunset frogs and 251 tadpoles into a private property in Mt Frankland area in order to extend the known range of the species.

References[edit]

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