Life Science Environment Survival on the line for newly discovered Queensland frog species
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Survival on the line for newly discovered Queensland frog species

While it looks like other known species, DNA testing has shown Philoria knowlesi to be unique. Photo: Australian Museum
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Australian scientists have discovered a new species of frog in south-east Queensland and it’s already classified as endangered.

The new mountain frog’s only known habitat is the world heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests which were extensively burned during the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.

Dubbed Philoria knowlesi, after Sydney environmentalist Ross Knowles, the frog was discovered thanks to extensive genetic testing.

Queensland’s environment department said it was already moving to protect the habitat of the newly identified species.

“There are a number of measures rangers are taking to support the recovery of fire-impacted areas,” senior conservation officer Harry Hines said.

University of Newcastle’s Professor Michael Mahony said the frog’s habitat, the Gondwana rainforests, were of “special significance” for the evolution of Australia’s plant and animal life.

“There are currently seven known species of mountain frog, six of which are found only in the Gondwana rainforest area,” Professor Mahony said.

The discovery is part of a joint effort from the Queensland government ecologists, the University of Newcastle, South Cross University, CSIRO and the South Australian Museum.

Scientists have been gathering and analysing the DNA of the mountain frogs in the rainforest since 2006.

Over the last 16 years they have been busy confirming they are all distinct species.

Philoria knowlesi comes in different shades of brown and lets out a deep “bop”-like croak.

It breeds in spring and early summer in small bogs and along the banks of mountain streams. When mating, the male creates a small breeding chamber where the tadpoles develop.

Philoria knowlesi’s biggest threat is habitat loss, with rangers working to keep out stray cattle, control feral pigs and weeds and reduce the risk of future bushfires.

Part of a national bushfire recovery fund will go to protecting the Gondwana rainforests, with $3.85 million for recovery projects of the World Heritage icon.

Areas of Gondwana that had never been touched by fire before Black Summer had blazes threatening numerous plant and animal species. Populations in the rainforest are still struggling to recover more than two years on.

Australia has the world’s worst rate of wildlife extinctions.

-AAP

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