Frogs of Victoria > Key guide to Victorian frogs > Hylidae / Litoria

Family Hylidae

Members of this family are commonly called Tree Frogs or hylids. The family is however quite variable and as well as containing the "true" tree frogs also contains the famous "water holding frogs" that spend most of their lives underground, only becoming active after rain to feed and spawn.

The family spans Europe, North Africa, Asia, and the Americas and is represented in Australia by three genera (groups of species) comprising over 70 species.

The genus Nyctimystes contains one Australian representative - a rainforest dweller in North Queensland.

About 12 species of "water holding frogs", genus Cyclorana, are found throughout mainland Australia but none occur in Victoria.

All Victoria's hylids are in the genus Litoria.

Family Hylidae, Genus Litoria

The genus Litoria is represented in both Australia and New Guinea. Native to Australia are 60 species, 11 of which are found in Victoria.

Victoria's hylids exhibit a number of lifestyles. Some are truly tree frogs while others are almost incapable of climbing. Peron's Tree Frog (Litoria peroni) can often be found in quite dry forest far from water while the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) is unlikely to leave its ponds or swamps at all.most hylids are insectivorous and feed on small flying insects as well as spiders and other invertebrates. However, two hylids - the Green and Golden Grass Frog (Litoria aurea) and the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) - eat other frogs and actively hunt their prey by listening for their advertisement calls. A male frog calling within earshot of either of these frogs is likely to be eaten!

Victoria's smallest hylid is the Leaf Green River Tree Frog (Litoria nudidigitus, previously known as Litoria phyllochroa) at only 40mm long while our largest hylids, Litoria aurea and Litoria raniformis, reach as much as 100mm.

Most of Victoria's hylids breed in the spring. Some, however, continue into summer and autumn - two examples being the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) and the Whistling Tree Frog (Litoria verreauxi). The Plains Brown Tree Frog (Litoria paraewingi) is primarily a winter breeder while the Southern Brown Tree Frog (Litoria ewingi) breeds all year round.

Males call from a variety of locations, but all Victorian hylids spawn in water. Hylid eggs are pigmented and usually form a "jelly" mass. They are commonly attached to submerged vegetation although the sometimes float. However, they are not frothy as are the egg-masses of the Marsh Frogs (Limnodynastes).

Identifying Litoria species

Question 1

Choice A Pupils cross-shaped.

Choice B Pupils horizontal.

NOTE: When having trouble seeing the shape of a frog's pupil, shining a light at it for about a minute will cause the pupil to shrink and reveal its true shape.

Question 2

Choice A Tympanum (ear) distinct.

Choice B Tympanum (ear) not distinct.

Question 3

Choice A A distinct dorso-lateral fold. Frog predominantly green.

Choice B No dorso-lateral fold. Frog predominantly brown.

Question 4

Choice A Back distinctly warty.

Choice B Back smooth.

Question 5

Choice A Purple/black and white/yellow mottling on back of thighs. Back cream-fawn to light brown.

Choice B Backs of thighs usually red. Back rusty gold-brown. Flanks (sides) with patches of green.

Question 6

Choice A Distinct white stripe on upper lip.

Choice B No distinct white stripe on upper lip.

Question 7

Choice A (1)Choice A (2) Pads wider than digits.

Choice B Pads only as wide as digits. Black patches or spots in groin.

Question 8

Choice A Bright orange/red on back of thighs. Never green on back. (This frog may smell like curry).

Choice B Yellow or pale orange on back of thighs. Often some green on back. (This frog does not smell like curry).

Question 9

Choice A Back smooth. A broad mottled gold and black band along each side.

Choice B Back warty. A diffuse, hazy black and gold band may be present along each side.

photography this page by
Peter Robertson (Q1A,Q2A,Q2B,Q3A,Q3B,Q6A,Q6B,Q7A,Q7B),
and Ian Cust (Q1B).

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