Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice for Spicospina flammocaerulea (Sunset Frog) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2014cz) [Conservation Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, the approved conservation advice for the species provides sufficient direction to implement priority actions and mitigate against key threats (29/04/2014).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and Disease Transmission by Feral Pigs (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2005p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis (Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006o) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Frogs. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.3 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010h) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
WA:Sunset Frog Recovery Plan (Burbidge, A.A. & J.D. Roberts, 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
State Listing Status
WA: Listed as Vulnerable (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Vulnerable (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Spicospina flammocaerulea [64782]
Family Myobatrachidae:Anura:Amphibia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Roberts, Horwitz, Wardell-Johnson, Mason and Mahony, 1997
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Spicospina flammocaerulea

Common name: Sunset Frog

The Sunset Frog is a black or very dark grey frog growing to 35 mm. It has bright reddish-orange hands and feet as well as orange patches below the anus and margins to jaws. It has a bright orange throat, anterior chest and cloacal glands. The belly has small bright blue spots (Cogger 2000).

The Sunset Frog was discovered in 1994. When first described in 1997, the species was only known from three well separated peat swamps in the south-west of Western Australia (Roberts et al. 1997). However, survey work undertaken from 1997 to 2000 raised the number of known populations to 27, all occurring near the Western Australian south coast, east and north-east of Walpole (Burbidge & Roberts 2001; Roberts et al. 1999).

The Sunset Frog has a limited extent of occurrence, approximately 305 km² (Burbidge & Roberts 2001; Roberts et al. 1999).

The area of occupancy for this species is 135 hectares (Burbidge & Roberts 2001; Roberts et al. 1999).

The Sunset Frog has a fragmented range (Burbidge & Roberts 2001; Roberts et al. 1999).

No reliable data on the population size of the Sunset Frog is available. However, counts of males have been recorded at several sites from 1994 to 1997 (Roberts et al. 1999). Surveys of calling males usually report less than 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 et al. 1999). The actual population size at sites with few or no calling males is unknown. Two sites with a long history of visitation and no calling activity contained individuals in 2000 (Roberts 2001, pers. comm.).

A 2009 review suggested that of 29 recorded populations, only seven were stable in terms of population health and security of tenure. Three of these populations (at Trent Road and Bandit Road) contribute 90% of recorded frogs, occur on private property and could benefit from the establishment of management agreements (Bain 2009).

Fourteen populations of the Sunset Frog occur on private property north, west and east of Bow Bridge. The remainder of the populations occur in the Mt Frankland National Park and Mt Lindsay National Park (Roberts et al. 1999; Roberts 2001, pers. comm.).

The Sunset Frog is a habitat specialist. The region from which this species has been recorded is thought to have undergone a change from a subtropical wet to a seasonally arid climate about five to six million years ago and the peat swamps where the species occurs are considered to be relicts of an earlier environment. 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 to 400 m (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).

It has been recorded that females deposit less than 200 eggs singly on algal mats just below the water surface. 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).

The method that has successfully been used in the past to survey the Sunset Frog is call surveys (UC 2003). More details on these methods are available in the Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Frogs (DEWHA 2010h).

Call surveys should be conducted during the known calling period of the Sunset Frog, between October and December. Males are known to call from shallow pools, water seepages and large hollows containing water, or along stream edges (Roberts et al. 1997; Wardell-Johnson et al. 1996). It has been suggested that a higher number of frog calls are recorded on nights when the moon is bright and the sky is clear, although further work is required to better define the impact of environmental paramaters on frog call frequency (Bain 2009). It has been suggested that calls increase following fire events (Roberts et al. 1999), however, monitoring doesn't support this consistently (Bain 2009a).

Fieldwork is currently being undertaken to evaluate declines and variation in population size by using direct mark-recapture techniques and surveys of tadpole populations (Roberts et al. 1999).

An extremely small geographic range makes the Sunset Frog particularly susceptible to local catastrophes. An apparent decline in frog numbers at one locality (Mountain Road, Mt Franklin National Park) following wildfires in 1994 suggests a possible risk from fire. Frequency of fire varies between localities but the majority of sites have experienced wildfires in the last 50 years. 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 (Roberts et al. 1997; Wardell-Johnson et al. 1996).

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. 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). Excavation by feral pigs is 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 to 1998 has shown little indication of pig damage (Roberts et al. 1999).

Chytridiomycosis is an infectious disease affecting amphibians worldwide. The disease has been recorded in four regions of Australia, namely the east coast, south-west Western Australia, Adelaide, and more recently Tasmania. This highly virulent fungal pathogen of amphibians is capable at the minimum of causing sporadic deaths in some populations, and 100 per cent mortality in other populations (AGDEH 2006o).

The Department of the Environment and Heritage has developed a threat abatement plan which aims to :

  • Prevent amphibian populations or regions that are currently chytridiomycosis-free from becoming infected by preventing further spread of the amphibian chytrid within Australia,
  • Decrease the impact of infection with the amphibian chytrid fungus on populations that are currently infected.

The Threat Abatement Plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis can be found at http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/chytrid/index.html

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Australian Frog Database (Frogs Australia Network, 2006) [Internet].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Implications of Climate Change for Land-based Nature Conservation Strategies (Pouliquen-Young, O. & P. Newman, 1999) [Report].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Australian Frog Database (Frogs Australia Network, 2006) [Internet].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Restricted geographical distribution (area of occupancy and extent of occurrence) Australian Frog Database (Frogs Australia Network, 2006) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Australian Frog Database (Frogs Australia Network, 2006) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) Conservation status of frogs in Western Australia. In: A. Campbell, ed. Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. Page(s) 177-184. (Roberts, D., S. Conroy & K. Williams, 1999) [Book].
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. (Roberts, J.D., P. Horwitz, G. Wardell-Johnson, L.R. Maxson & M.J. Mahony, 1997) [Journal].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Vegetation and habitat loss caused by dieback Phytophthora cinnamomi 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. (Roberts, J.D., P. Horwitz, G. Wardell-Johnson, L.R. Maxson & M.J. Mahony, 1997) [Journal].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Australian Frog Database (Frogs Australia Network, 2006) [Internet].
Conservation status of frogs in Western Australia. In: A. Campbell, ed. Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. Page(s) 177-184. (Roberts, D., S. Conroy & K. Williams, 1999) [Book].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Conservation status of frogs in Western Australia. In: A. Campbell, ed. Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. Page(s) 177-184. (Roberts, D., S. Conroy & K. Williams, 1999) [Book].

Bain, K. (2009). Conservation and Management of Spicospina flammocaerulea (Sunset Frog); A report on activities undertaken in 2008/2009 under Perth Zoo Funding. Frankland District, Department of Environment and Conservation.

Bain, K. (2009a). Walpole Fire Mosaic Report - Frankland District.

Burbidge, A.A. & J.D. Roberts (2001). Sunset Frog Recovery Plan 2001-2005. CALM, WA Thr. Sp. & Communities Unit.

Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia - 6th edition. Sydney, NSW: Reed New Holland.

Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2006o). Threat Abatement Plan for infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/chytrid.html.

Roberts, D. (2001). Personal communication.

Roberts, D., S. Conroy & K. Williams (1999). Conservation status of frogs in Western Australia. In: A. Campbell, ed. Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. Page(s) 177-184. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Roberts, J.D., P. Horwitz, G. Wardell-Johnson, L.R. Maxson & M.J. Mahony (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.

University of Canberra (UC) (2003). Survey Standards for Australian Frogs. Canberra, Australia: Applied Ecology Research Group, UC.

Wardell-Johnson, G., D. Roberts & P. Horwitz (1996). The Sunset Frog. Nature Australia. Spr. 1996: 24-25.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Spicospina flammocaerulea in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sat, 23 Aug 2014 04:42:03 +1000.