Frogs and insects of the Wet Tropics Rainforest

Green tree frog, Daintree

Many use the melodies of the rainforest – the chirping of insects, the gentle croaking of frogs, and the call of tropical birds – to relax and unwind, but exactly who are the players contributing to this chorus?

Well, there are more than 40,000 for starters. And while we won’t be covering them all, below is an overview of some of the more notable characters.

Frogs

The World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics is home to approximately 54 species of frogs. Some of which prefer cooler climes, residing higher in the mountains, while some are even partial to a home visit.

  • With a pure white upper lip, it’s probably not the most inventive name, but it does make the white-lipped tree frog (Litoria infrafrenata) one of the easiest to identify. They can reach over 130mm in length, from the tip of the snout to the vent and have a surprisingly loud call, resembling the bark of a dog.
  • The common green tree frog (Litoria caerulea) has large, flat discs for fingers, which it uses to help climb. Their homing instinct often sees them removed from a mailbox, only to return. They are also found around outdoor toilets and gutter pipes, but their more natural environment is in forests, wetlands, or woodlands. Their call is like a 'crawk...crawk....crawk'.
  • The short-footed waterholding frog (Cyclorana brevipes) can be found in the Townsville area and the western reaches of the Atherton Tablelands. Distinguished by its yellow-beige colour with broken brown stripes or blotches down its back, this fascinating frog survives the dry months by encasing itself in a 'plastic bag' made from its skin. They 'hibernate' in this bag until the heavy rains return after which they climb back to the surface, swallow the bag and breed quickly before the waters dry up again.
  • Long jumpers are those little guys that can clear the width of a road in two leaps. There are a few different species, ranging in size from as small as the 2cm dwarf rocket frog (Litoria microbelos) to the 6cm striped rocket frog (Litoria nasuta).

Insects

While there’s no arguing the 40,000 insects residing in the Wet Tropics is an impressive number, it’s worth keeping in mind insects are the most abundant animal type on earth. A few of the notable characters that inhabit the rainforest include:

  • The vibrant Ulysses butterfly (Papilio Ulysses) is a large swallowtail butterfly with a 10.5cm wingspan. It’s blue-coloured wings make for a brilliant sight in the rainforest.
  • Found only in the rainforests of the Wet Tropics and considered one of the world’s most beautiful beetles due to its dazzling colours of metallic green, gold and purple is the Mueller’s stag beetle (Phalacrognathus muelleri). The rhinoceros beetle is another impressive beetle, not only for its size, of up to 60mm in length but also for its forked horns. 
  • The leaf katydids, resembling leaves and measuring up to 65mm, blend into their environment perfectly. If disturbed the katydid will adopt a rigid position.
  • Paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus) are usually found along the eastern coastline of Australia and particularly in tropical forests after heavy rainfall. It secretes a neurotoxin in its saliva that causes a progressive, and occasionally fatal, paralysis. The tick will often go unnoticed until weakness develops and then is found during a search of the body. Apply a standard repellent when venturing into tick-prone areas.

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