Backyard Buddies
Burrowing Frogs

Photo: Vivian Evans

Burrowing Frogs

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Burrowing frogs spend dry times lying in wait up to a metre deep under the soil. They can stay there for years until a good soaking of rain softens the ground enough for them to move to the surface to breed.

If it has been wet, then it has been a good year for burrowing frogs. Heavy rains can cover vast areas of inland Australia with temporary lakes. This creates ideal breeding conditions for burrowing frogs.

Around a third of Australian frog species will burrow into the ground for part of the year.

Some burrowers, such as the Eastern and Western Banjo Frogs dig a shallow burrow a few centimetres deep in leaf litter which merely serves as a night-time and cold weather retreat, not a permanent abode.

The true burrowing frogs are superb drought-dodgers, digging deep down into the soil and remaining there for months or even years as the soil bakes solid in the summer sun.

Many of these frogs can store up to 50% of their body weight as water in their bladders. This keeps them supplied with moisture during those months or years underground.

Burrowing frogs back legs are equipped with "shovels" which they use to dig themselves backwards down into the ground. Before they go to sleep, they form a cocoon of dead skin cells around their bodies to limit water loss.

Some of the better known burrowing frogs are:

The Ornate Burrowing Frog (north and eastern Australia)

Rare Giant Burrowing Frog (coastal New South Wales and Victoria)

Spencer's Burrowing Frog (arid central areas)

Painted Burrowing Frog (widespread in south-eastern South Australia and western Victoria but endangered in New South Wales)

The Striped Burrowing Frog (Queensland, New South Wales)

Did you know?

Some burrowing frogs live their entire life underground. The Round Frog and Turtle Frog from Western Australia live almost permanently below ground and feed on termites.

Tip

Sometimes an innocent excavation of the garden veggie patch can have surprising results. You may accidentally dig up a burrowing frog, deep in slumber. If so, it can be put back gently where it was and covered up again. It will wake of its own accord in the next big rains.

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Marcia - Grandparent & FNPW Supporter, QLD

Photo: OEH