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New Zealand Frogs: Leiopelmatidae

Maud Island Frog (leiopelma Pakeka): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The Maud Island frog looks so much like Hamilton's frog that scientists thought they were the same species until 1998. At that time, they compared their DNA and found that the frogs were different enough to be separated into two species. DNA, which is inside the cells of all animals, is a chain of chemical molecules that carry the instructions for creating each species and each individual. When looking at the frogs from the outside, the biggest difference between the two species is their color: the Maud Island frog is paler, but only slightly. They both have unwebbed feet and ridges on the back, and each grows to 2.0 inches (5.1 centimeters) long from snout to rump. Females are a bit larger than males.

In 1997, conservationists gathered 300 Maud Island frogs and transplanted them to Motuara Island, where they seem to be surviving well. (Illustration by Brian Cressman. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: It lives on a tiny scrap of land, measuring just 0.06 miles2 (0.15 kilometers2) on Maud Island in New Zealand. In 1997, conservationists gathered 300 individuals and transplanted them to Motuara Island, where the frogs seem to be surviving well.

Habitat: This frog makes its home in the forest that covers the east side of a hill on Maud Island. Although the forest reaches up the hill to about 980 feet (300 meters), the frog tends to live in the lower portion, where the slope is flatter and the climate is more moist. This species often hides among rocks and logs.

Diet: It eats insects it finds in its habitat.

Behavior and reproduction: The Maud Island frog stays out of sight during the day and comes out at night to hop slowly about and look for food. Female Maud Island frogs lay their eggs, which can number up to 20, in damp spots on the forest floor. Each male watches over his eggs until they hatch into tiny frogs. He allows the froglets to climb up his legs and onto his back.

Maud Island frogs and people: Humans rarely see this nighttime frog.

Conservation status: According to the World Conservation Union, the Maud Island frog is Vulnerable, which means that it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild. The current major threat to this species is introduced predators, including rats and ermines. Efforts are under way to keep the predators away from the frogs. Additional efforts proceed to protect and restore the frog's tiny habitat on Maud Island and to introduce the frog to a new area on Motuara Island. ∎



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Hutching, Gerard. The Natural World of New Zealand: An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of New Zealand's Natural Heritage. Auckland: Penguin, 1998.

Jones, Jenny. Hamilton's Frog. Auckland: Heinemann Education, 1994.

Robb, Joan. New Zealand Amphibians and Reptiles in Color. Auckland: Collins Publishers, 1980.

Web sites:

Barnett, Shaun. "The Trouble with Frogs." Forest and Bird Magazines. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/magazines/00Feb/frogs.asp (accessed on January 20, 2005).

"Frogs." Christchurch City Libraries. http://library.christchurch.org.nz/Childrens/FactSheets/Animals/Frogs.asp (accessed on January 28, 2005).

Kingsley, Danny. "Ancient Frogs Threatened by Fungus." ABC Science Online. http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/enviro/EnviroRepublish_537533.htm (accessed on January 20, 2005).

Lehtenin, R. "Leiopelmatidae." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Leiopelmatidae.html (accessed on January 20, 2005).

"Native Frog Facility to Open at Auckland Zoo." Scoop. http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/AK0410/S00129.htm (accessed on January 20, 2005).

"New Zealand Ecology: Living Fossils." TerraNature. http://www.terranature.org/living_fossils.htm (accessed on January 20, 2005).

"Welcome to the New Zealand Frog Survey (NZFS)!" University of Otago. http://www.otago.ac.nz/Zoology/frogs/#nz%20species (accessed on January 20, 2005).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansNew Zealand Frogs: Leiopelmatidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, New Zealand Frogs And People, Conservation Status, Hamilton's Frog (leiopelma Hamiltoni): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET