Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Australian microhylid frogs (Cophixalus and Austrochaperina): phylogeny, taxonomy, calls, distributions and breeding biology

Australian Journal of Zoology 52(3) 237 - 269
Published: 30 June 2004


Despite a considerable surge in herpetological research in Australia over the last couple of decades the Australian microhylid frogs (Cophixalus and Austrochaperina) remain relatively poorly known. Herein I present the results of extensive fieldwork and molecular, morphological and call analysis with the aim of resolving taxonomy, call variation and distributions, and increasing our understanding of breeding biology. Analysis of 943 base pairs of mitochondrial 16S rRNA and 12S rRNA provides a well supported phylogeny that is largely consistent with current taxonomy. Levels of divergence between species are substantial and significant phylogeographic structuring is evident in C. ornatus, C. neglectus and C. aenigma, sp. nov. The description of C. concinnus was based on a mixed collection of two species from Thornton Peak and a new species is described to resolve this. C. aenigma, sp. nov., is described from high-elevation (>750 m) rainforest across the Carbine, Thornton, Finnigan and Bakers Blue Mountain uplands, north-east Queensland. C. concinnus is redescribed as a highly distinct species restricted to rainforest and boulder fields at the summit of Thornton Peak (>1100 m). Despite protection in Daintree National Park in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, predictions of the impact of global warming suggest C. concinnus to be of very high conservation concern (Critically Endangered, IUCN criteria). The mating call of two species (C. mcdonaldi and C. exiguus) is described for the first time and high levels of call variation within C. ornatus, C. neglectus, C. hosmeri, C. aenigma and Austrochaperina fryi are presented. Such variation is often attributable to genetically divergent lineages, altitudinal variation and courtship; however, in some instances (particularly within C. hosmeri) the source or function of highly distinct calls at a site remains obscure. Molecular, morphological and call analyses allow the clarification of species distributions, especially in the northern mountains of the Wet Tropics. Notes are presented on the breeding biology of C. aenigma, C. bombiens, C. concinnus, C. exiguus, C. infacetus, C. mcdonaldi, C. monticola, C. neglectus, C. ornatus and C. saxatilis, which are largely consistent with previous accounts: small terrestrial clutches usually attended by a male. Courtship behaviour in C. ornatus is described and the first records of multiple clutching in Australian microhylids are presented (for C. ornatus and C. infacetus).

© CSIRO 2004

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