Backyard Buddies
Water holding frogs

Photo: Tnarg 12345

Water holding frogs

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As heavy rains and floods turn parched, cracked earth to oozing mud, one of Australia's most incredible frogs is just waking up.

Droplets of water dripping down into its chamber up to 1 m underground are telling the Water-holding Frog that it's time to swim, feed and breed.

If you live in western New South Wales, southern Queensland, north-eastern South Australia, western Western Australia or one of the select spots in the Northern Territory where this species lives - you may spot one during very wet periods.

The Water-holding Frog can stay underground for years at a time before digging itself to the surface to feed after rain. They need to build up fat reserves as fast as possible before the water evaporates from the ground.

Above ground this frog spends most of its time swimming in pools, feeding on insects, tadpoles and smaller frogs. They catch their swimming prey with their hands and stuff it in their mouths. They'll also prey on ants and termites on dry land.

Male Water-holding Frogs waste no time looking for a mate. It sounds like a motorbike starting when a group of males gather beside a pond to call out in congress, making loud, long, slow 'maaaw-w-w' sounds to attract females.

Females lay more than 500 eggs at a time in clumps in ponds. These eggs develop into large, golden tadpoles which must turn into frogs before the water dries up. It takes them about 30 days to metamorphose into young frogs.

The Water-holding Frog needs to get back underground before the ground becomes too hard to burrow through. When the time has come, the frog will burrow backwards into the mud, using their back legs like spades.

Once underground it sheds several layers of skin to create a translucent, waterproof cocoon around itself. This helps it preserve water for the many long months ahead.

The frog's metabolic rate also slows and it enters a kind of suspended animation. It will have to live off fat reserves and water stored in its bladder until the next heavy rains.

Did you know?

If you have a frog pond in your garden, put a solar-powered light beside it to attract insects at night. This will attract frogs looking for an easy meal- and the insects they eat.

Indigenous people used these frogs as a source of food and water when they were out in the desert.

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Photo: OEH