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 Post subject: Australia 2016 Part 3: The Victorian Victories
PostPosted: June 12th, 2016, 1:57 am 

Joined: September 8th, 2011, 5:12 pm
Posts: 340
Location: Oxford, MS
I apologize for the delay in posting another Australia update. I have basically been in the field constantly since my last update, and haven't had time to load photos. Fortunately, I write the posts as I'm in the field in my down time, so all I do need to do is sort photos. For those following my adventures and follies on the Southern Continent, you'll recall that I am here to study color evolution in the frogs in the genus Pseudophryne, but as of yet, I had not seen these elusive frogs. If you've not been following the adventures, you can catch up with the following threads:

Australia 2016 Part 1: Sydney and the Snowy Mountains
Australia 2016 Part 2: (Tasmanian) Devils Walk Among Us

Since the last update, I did get back into the mountains at Kosciuszko National Park to continue some clay model research, though my role mainly was shifted to be a photographer. I was to set up camera traps in an effort to try to figure out what predators were attacking the models, and their behavior when they did. I was also to take photos of the attacked models using the lab's full spectrum camera in an effort to see if the attacked models were more or less conspicuous than the unattacked models. This trip included perhaps my worst day in the field where I had to endure rain, sleet, hail, 30+ mph winds, and ~45F temperatures while putting out models. As you can imagine, it was not too successful herp wise, so I'm not going to say anything more on that.

I also visited the Blue Mountains to try to find the endangered Blue Mountains Water Skink (Eulamprus leurensis), and while I was not successful in that species, there were heaps of Yellow-Bellied Water Skinks (E. heatwolei) around, which was new for me.

ImageBlue Mountains by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageYellow-Bellied Water Skink by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageYellow-Bellied Water Skink by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageSmall Waterfall by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageCascade in the Blue Mountains by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

Also I did a quick, day trip to Royal National Park to do some waterfall photography. I managed to find a few skinks along the way:

ImageWater Skink at Uloola by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageWhite's Skink by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageWhite's Skink by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

The bulk of this post is going to deal with my two week long trip through Victoria to start finding frogs. In an effort to keep the text relatively short on this post (it'll still be somewhat long), I'll refer you to my website blog post (http://www.JP-Lawrence.com) which goes into the day by day adventures and follies.

Victoria has three species of Pseudophryne: P. bibronii, P. dendyi, and P. semimarmorata. Of these, the latter two interested me most because P. dendyi is probably the most colorful, dorsally, in the genus other than the Corroboree Frogs, and it is variable across its small range. And P. semimarmorata is so different from the rest of the genus with bright orange-red ventral patches. And it's the only member that has had toxin work done on it. I was also keen to get photos using the aforementioned full spectrum camera to see how the frogs looked in the wild.

I started my 5892km journey (yes, I counted) in Cann River, right in the middle of P. dendyi country. I was a little concerned about this trip being successful because El NiƱo was making the weather uncooperative. By the beginning of April, the fall rains should start up getting the frogs worked up into a frenzy, but in the week leading up to this trip, I saw nothing but sunny skies and low chances of rain. It was now or never, so I went anyway. My concerns were immediately dispelled when, no more than 30 minutes after arriving at Cann River, I found my first P. dendyi. It wouldn't be long before I found a half dozen more individuals including a courting pair and several males guarding their eggs (males in this genus guard the eggs while waiting for depressions to fill with water - giving them their common name, the brood frogs). At this point, I feel it important to note that finding these frogs is not really easy (and with practice, it wasn't difficult either). These frogs create call chambers under leaf litter from which they will advertise their presence. These chambers will be expanded as females come and lay eggs for them to guard. But the interesting function of these chambers is that it makes them somewhat difficult to find because it obscures their location. I found the best way to find the frogs was by triangulation and then digging. Only in a few instances did I not find the calling frog.

ImageDendy's Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageDendy's Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageDendy's Toadlet Guarding Eggs by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

These frogs breed around puddles and, in the fall, not much else is calling, but there are a few species, including Geocrinia victoriana, Litoria ewingii, and Crinia signifera.

ImageBrown Tree Frog by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageEastern Smooth Frog by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

My next stop brought me near Lakes Entrance which should be in P. dendyi and P. semimarmorata country. Buoyed with the success of the previous night, I was sure my collection was going to be easy. And indeed, it was, this time easily finding a number of choruses of P. semimarmorata which were so striking in ventral color (but utterly forgettable dorsally). I did not find any P. dendyi, making me wonder if they're competitively excluded by P. semimarmorata.

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

My next stop was Toongabbie which was my most anticipated stop. This was because of a couple of Toongabbie P. dendyi photos that showed an incredibly yellow individual, easily the most conspicuous other than the Corroboree Frogs. My success ended that night where I didn't find a single frog.

And that marked a string of unsuccessful nights as I headed west. It was too dry. At one point, I actually saw dust clouds forming in the wind. I hoped that I would see more reptiles, but with temperatures generally cool (mid-60s in the day, low 50s at night), even that was mostly unsuccessful, though I did see some.

I did, at least, see some impressive landscapes and finally got to see my wild koala on the Great Ocean Road.

ImageOverlook at You Yangs by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageWild Koala by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

And while I was at the You Yangs, I did see a Jacky Dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus).

ImageJacky Dragon by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

And a number of birds, including a velociraptor:

ImageRed-Browed Finch by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageEmu at Tower Hill by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageFemale Gang-Gang by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

And to note how dry it was, this normally is a not small waterfall on the Great Ocean Road.

ImageDry Waterfall by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

If you have the time, however, drive the Great Ocean Road. The beauty of it cannot be overstated, especially when you get to the Shipwreck Coast.

ImageShipwreck Coast by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

I didn't find more Pseudophryne until I got near the South Australia border, where I found more P. semimarmorata. This was great because they were different, if subtly, than the Lakes Entrance ones I found.

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

The Common Froglets (Crinia signifera) were as their name implies. This species is incredibly variable and, to be honest, a real pain to ID because it's often sympatric with other Crinia and, because it is so variable, can only reliable be IDed by call.

ImageCommon Froglet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

Since I was so close to the SA border, I decided to quickly jump in so that I can knock that state off of my list. If all goes according to plan, I should hit every state in Australia on this trip. I ended up going to a little tourist trap of a cave called Tantanoola Caves, and I'm glad I did because it was probably the most impressive cave I've been in as far as decoration goes.

ImageTantanoola Caves by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

This part of Australia is largely limestone which has eroded over the years into impressive cave and sinkhole formations.

ImageUmpherston Sinkhole by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

After that, I went to the Grampians, one of Victoria's largest and most popular national parks. The Grampians are an odd mountain chain in the middle of no where, geographically. They are a wonder to behold, though, and I can certainly see why they are so popular. While I found beautiful landscapes and waterfalls, I did not find Pseudophryne here.

ImageCascades in the Grampians by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageCascades in the Grampians by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageThe Grampians by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageFish Falls by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

And you know it's tough herping when you get excited by little skinks:

ImagePale-Flecked Garden Sunskink by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

My lack of success continued onto Bendigo at which point I decided to go back east along the coast where, as of a week or so ago, it was wet enough to get the frogs calling. I decided to focus my sampling efforts there and get good representation for eastern Victoria, which is especially good because it's near a phylogenetic barrier which is basically the Victoria-New South Wales border, so extensive sampling on both sides of the border would be beneficial.

I decided to try once more for Toongabbie frogs, and was finally met with success. Third time's a charm (2 times on this trip, once last austral winter)! These were beautiful and rather variable frogs. Definitely the most intriguing population I have encountered from my color evolution biased perspective.

ImageDendy's Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageDendy's Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageDendy's Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageDendy's Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

I also heard and found plenty of Eastern Smooth Froglets (Geocrinia victoriana) in the same places I was looking for Pseudophryne dendyi.

ImageEastern Smooth Froglet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

Also while there, I headed just a little south from Toongabbie to a campsite I had stay at the first time visiting this area to try to find the Pseudophryne that were calling in a dried wetland. After much persistence, I finally did find the culprits, Pseudophryne semimarmorata guarding eggs.

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

After that, I went further east to near Cape Conran, and I managed to find, after a lot of driving, probably the easternmost, or close to it, population of P. semimarmorata, which actually were a little more colorful dorsally, with some yellows creeping into their dorsum. Again, no P. dendyi in this area even though range maps indicate they should be here.

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

That left me with eastern P. dendyi populations to sample until the Victoria-New South Wales border. I tried a higher elevation site curious as to what the frogs would look like because supposedly, the higher in elevation you go, the more yellow the frogs get. These frogs, however, looked like the lower elevation frogs I found at the beginning of the trip.

ImageDendy's Toadlet by J.P. Lawrence, on Flickr

And that concludes my Victorian fieldwork. It wasn't as successful as I would have hoped both in finding Pseudophryne and other herps, but I did find some, so I can't complain too much! Just as a note, I did not find any P. bibronii, but I wasn't too surprised by this as I was told that they are in decline in Victoria and harder to find. Coupled with the exceptionally dry conditions, not finding any was rather expected. Unfortunately, I blame my poor success in finding animals on it being exceptionally dry and fairly cool, so both reptiles and amphibians were reluctant to show themselves.

I, too, want to take a moment to comment, again, how awesome the Camps Australia Wide atlas has been. Over the course of this two week trip, I only spent money on food and fuel (and Tantanoola Caves). I camped in some beautiful areas that were completely free. It also helped when my plans changed half way through the trip. And no, I'm not being paid by Camps Australia Wide.

And that brings me to my updated species list. Now that I'm in my fieldwork portion of the trip, hopefully, this will grow quickly! Next post will cover my quick foray into southern Queensland. I will do my best to bring this one up soon, but I'm going to be flying back to the US this week, then to a wedding, and then to Peru, so I may not have time and the following updates may have to wait until I finally, permanently, get back to the US.

Herp species so far for this trip, asterisks denote lifers, red are new since the last update: 27
Frogs
Crinia signifera
Litoria caerulea*
Limnodynastes dumerilii* (no photo)
Litoria ewingii*
Pseudophryne dendyi*
Pseudophryne semimarmorata*
Geocrinia victoriana*


Turtles
Emydura macquarii*

Lizards
Cryptoblepharus pulcher (no photo)
Ctenotus taeniolatus*
Egernia cunninghami*
Eulamprus kosciuskoi*
Eulamprus tympanum*
Eulamprus quoyii
Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii*
Pseudemoia pagenstecheri*
Rankinia diemensis*

Niveoscincus metallicus*
Niveoscincus orocryptus*
Egernia whitii*
Lampropholis delicata

Eulamprus heatwolei*
Amphibolurus muricatus*
Lampropholis guichenoti*


Snakes
Australeps ramsayi*
Drysdalia coronoides*
Pseudonaja textilis
(no photo)*


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 Post subject: Re: Australia 2016 Part 3: The Victorian Victories
PostPosted: June 12th, 2016, 10:34 pm 
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Joined: September 12th, 2010, 1:20 pm
Posts: 220
Location: Jersey, UK
Great post - new mission for me when I am next in Victoria is to find a Toongabbie P.dendyi!!


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 Post subject: Re: Australia 2016 Part 3: The Victorian Victories
PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 6:52 am 

Joined: September 8th, 2011, 5:12 pm
Posts: 340
Location: Oxford, MS
krisbell wrote:
Great post - new mission for me when I am next in Victoria is to find a Toongabbie P.dendyi!!


It's a pretty awesome frog. I had only seen a couple of photos of it and was determined to find it for myself. The population is quite variable and that high yellow one was the only one with that much yellow that I did find (I found one or two others that did have quite a bit of yellow on them). I think I now have the most photos in the world of that population, haha.


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 Post subject: Re: Australia 2016 Part 3: The Victorian Victories
PostPosted: August 19th, 2016, 9:31 pm 

Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 8:24 pm
Posts: 27
Location: Queensland Australia
the ewingii is actually Litoria verreauxii

Cheers,
Scott


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