Littlejohn’s Tree Frog, Litoria littlejohni

The Littlejohn’s Tree Frog (Litoria littlejohni), known also as the Heath Frog or the Orange-Bellied Tree Frog, is a species of tree frog that is native to eastern Australia from Wyong, New South Wales, to Buchan, Victoria.

Measuring about 60 millimeters in length, this frog is of medium size. It is usually brown or grey-brown on the dorsal surface with many scattered darker colored flecks and spots. Often, a faint darker patch is featured on the back. A dark line extends from behind the nostril down to the shoulder. The belly is a cream color. The iris is a golden-yellow, and it has large toe discs. The armpits and thighs are orange, this helps to distinguish is from the similar Jervis Bay Tree Frog (Litoria jervisiensis).

This species is associated with swamps and dams, still creeks, and pools, mainly in heathland, but in forest and woodland also, mainly in highland areas. The males make a trilling “weep, weep, weep, weep…” from elevated areas or while floating in the water around the breeding site. The males emit their call mainly during the cooler months; however, calling has been observed in all months with a peak in February. Clusters of about 60 eggs are laid attached to submerged twigs or branches next to the edge of the body of water. The coloration in the tadpoles is dark, reaching about 65 millimeters and take about 120 days to develop. Metamorphs look much like the adult and measure around 20 millimeters.

This species is one of the least encountered species within Australia. Despite its large distribution, the number of sites where this species has been recorded is low across New South Wales and Victoria. At the majority of the breeding sites, the number of calling males is also normally low and has only rarely been recorded with more than 10 calling males, which is low, even for a rare species. This may be because of the poor surveying techniques as a result of lack of data on the breeding habits and habitat preferences of this frog.

This frog doesn’t appear to be under direct threat from habitat clearing, and appears tolerant of disturbance. Additional information is needed of this species to determine why low numbers of individuals are being recorded. However, despite the low numbers, the species appears to be stable and it does not appear to be in serious decline.

Image Caption: A Littlejohn’s Tree Frog or Heath Frog (Litoria littlejohni) from Wollondilly Shire local government area in Sydney. Credit: Tnarg 12345/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)