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Leaping to It: Yurrayas Jumping in Puddles

Author: Tamara Kermode

Today we are leaping into the waters and finding some Yurraya (Frog in the Gamilaraay language).

A study conducted by the University of New England Masters Student, Abdur Razzaque Sarker in collaboration with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), looked at the patterns between inundation and frog breeding of species within the Gwydir State Conservation Area (SCA) and surrounding privately-owned wetlands. The frog monitoring data was collected from 2015 as part of DPE- Environment and Heritage Group’s (EHG) environmental water monitoring program. The EHG surveys documented a diverse community of Yurraya finding 12 species, including the Barking Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes fletcheri) (Figure 1). One of these is a newly recorded species in the Gwydir Wetlands called the Knife-footed Frog (Cyclorana cultripes), which has no webbing on its fingers, and only partially webbed toes.

Figure 1: Barking Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes fletcheri). (Photo credit - UNE).

Razzaq also captured calling activity via acoustic recorders over 2019-2020 and analysed the acoustic data using a spectrogram (Figure 2). The spectrogram shows variability in chorusing behaviours across species, with some species chorusing less or more following the arrival of flows. For instance, the Spotted Grass Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) increased their duration of chorusing, following inundation (Figure 3). The arrival of water creates more favourable breeding conditions, thus triggering increased chorusing to kick off the breeding season.

Figure 2: The audio recordings of the croaking Yurrayas over time. We can identify Yurraya species by the coloured bars. For instance, the Barking Marsh Frog by the purple marks in the yellow box bottom right.
Figure 3: Spotted Grass Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) photographed in the Gwydir wetlands during night-time surveys. (Photo credit - UNE).

Why do Yurrayas chorus?

Only male Yurraya’s sing as they advertise themselves to the females as potential partners. Females seek out the males whose “love song” they like best. For us the best time to hear Yurraya calls is in the warmer months as most species breed in the spring and summer.

Photo: UNE

Not all Yurraya species have the same biotic and abiotic preferences. The Knifefooted Frog for example, which is a burrowing species, likes to be in the floodplain areas or alongside riverbanks. Other species such as the Barking Marsh Frog exhibit strong associations with tall spike-rush (Eleocharis sphacelate). These niche environments are known as microhabitats and many Yurraya species within the Gwydir Wetlands rely on these specific conditions and resources for breeding and foraging (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Water-holding Frog (Cyclorana platycephala) tadpole found within the Gwydir wetlands (Photo credit - Zac Lewis).

So why do we do this research? Research is a foundation upon which we can base future management actions. For instance, the research team found that floodplain inundation following environmental watering was beneficial to Yurraya populations occurring within the wetlands, particularly during dry and low rainfall periods (Figure 5).

This knowledge helps environmental water managers achieve the best outcomes for not only the Yurrayas, but the whole ecosystem.

Figure 5: Peron's Tree Frog (Litoria peronii) in the Gwydir wetlands. Photo Credit - UNE.

What Makes Up Ecosystems?

Biotic factors are the living things such as the plants, animals and bacteria, while abiotic factors are the non-living components in our ecosystems such as water, soil, atmosphere and temperature.

Featured Photo: UNE

Traditional Gamilaaraay Language of the Gomeroi nation used in this article (H. White & B. Duncan – Speaking Our Way)

Managing water for the environment is a collective and collaborative effort, working in partnership with communities, private landholders, scientists and government agencies – these contributions are gratefully acknowledged.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live, work and play. We also pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Our work in the Gwydir

The Gwydir is a special place with significant environmental, cultural and economic values. Our work here focuses on monitoring and evaluating the outcomes water for the environment enables in some of the largest waterbird breeding colonies in Australia. We also work in the rivers and floodplains to assess water quality, fish breeding and food webs.

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