Telling Frogs Apart

You’d think that a frog specialist like Jodi Rowley would be able to easily tell one frog from the other. And, compared to, say, me she can. But even Jodi sometimes just looks at a bunch of little brown frogs and sees just a lot of frogs.

Similar Leaf-litter Toad (Leptolalax isos). Photo: Jodi Rowley

This isn’t a surprise: frogs aren’t too vision-focused. We are.

So while, for us, frogs don’t look all that different, among frogs there are a bunch of other indicators to tell each other apart.

Jodi uses DNA. Once she does, those innocuous-looking little brown frogs might suddenly turn out to be three different species. Each with their own behaviour, their own call, their own different biologies.

Those different biologies are worth telling apart. Because frogs are good for lots of things. Some frogs give birth like human beings, some mature in trees.

Other frogs fight:

Others, like gastric-brooding frogs, used to be able to turn off the acids in their stomach. Were, because as far as we know, they’re extinct now. Which means we can only study dead specimens to try to work out whether we can copy its acid thing to, say, treat ulcers in human beings.

Frogs are threatened by seemingly-intangible threats like habitat change or destruction. But also by really quite specific threats, like Amphibian Chytrid Fungus.

Vampire Flying Frog (Rhacophorus vampyrus) Photo: Jodi Rowley

Jodi Rowley, our guest this week on Not What You Think, reckons we should look out for frogs. And not just because that might be important for us.

There’s an equally important reason for making sure frogs are ok: they’re magnificent, with all their calls, different behaviours, biologies, eyes or colours. For now, you can still go see all those things.

Click through to our show page and she’ll tell you about it.

Not What You Think is broadcast 10:30am Saturdays in September and October, on Sydney’s FBi Radio. Listen live on 94.5 FM or the website, or subscribe to the podcast via our show page.