International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 62, Issue 5, pp 873–882 | Cite as

Calling phenology of a diverse amphibian assemblage in response to meteorological conditions

  • T. Lynette PlenderleithEmail author
  • Danial Stratford
  • Gregory W. Lollback
  • David G. Chapple
  • Richard D. Reina
  • Jean-Marc Hero
Original Paper


The strong association between amphibian activity, breeding and recruitment with local environmental conditions raises concerns regarding how changes in climate may affect the persistence of species populations into the future. Additionally, in a highly diverse assemblage of anurans, competition for breeding sites affects the time and duration of activity, as species compete for limited resources such as water. Meteorological conditions are strong drivers of amphibian activity, so we assessed whether temperature, rainfall, atmospheric pressure and humidity were associated with the calling phenology of an assemblage of anurans in South East Queensland, Australia. We performed calling surveys and collected digital recordings at 45 ponds in an area known for high anuran diversity. We performed detection analyses to investigate the influence of 10 meteorological variables in detection of calling activity in 19 amphibian species. Our results suggest four breeding strategies in the assemblage: explosive summer breeders, prolonged breeders, opportunistic breeders and a winter breeder. Classifying these species into associations provides a framework for understanding how species respond to environmental conditions. Explosive breeders (i.e. species demonstrating short and highly synchronised breeding periods) were particularly responsive to temperature. Our findings help elucidate the breeding phenology of frogs and provide valuable information on their mating systems in native Australian forests. This study highlights the difficulties of surveying even common anurans. We highlight the importance of predictability and stability in climate and the vulnerability of species for which reproduction appears to require highly specific environmental cues.


Anuran Detection analysis Frog communication Litoria Myobatrachidae Bufo 



We thank K. Buhagiar, C. Johnstone, M. Familiar-Lopez, C. Goulet and F. Hohaia for assistance in the field.

Funding information

The research was funded by the Ric Nattrass scholarship (Queensland Frog Society), Griffith School of Environment postgraduate support scheme, the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment Fund (grants to TLP) and a Science Faculty Early Career Researcher Grant (to DGC).

Compliance with ethical standards

This research was conducted under Monash University Biological Sciences Animal Ethics Committee approval BSCI-2013-20, Griffith University Animal Ethics Committee approval ENV/23/13/AEC and Queensland research and collection permit WISP14217514.


  1. Aspbury AS, Juliano SA (1998) Negative effects of habitat drying and prior exploitation on the detritus resource in an ephemeral aquatic habitat. Oecologia 115(1-2):137–148. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beebee TJ (2009) Amphibian breeding and climate. Nature 374:219–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bertoluci J, Rodrigues MT (2002) Seasonal patterns of breeding activity of Atlantic Rainforest anurans at Boracéia, Southeastern Brazil. Amphibia-Reptilia 23(2):161–168. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blair WF (1960) A breeding population of the Mexican toad (Bufo valliceps) in relation to its environment. Ecology 41(1):165–174. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blaustein AR, Belden LK, Olson DH, Green DM, Root TL, Kiesecker JM (2001) Amphibian breeding and climate change. Conserv Biol 15(6):1804–1809. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bureau of Meteorology (2015) Climate statistics for Australian locations. Accessed 27 July 2015
  7. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodal inference: a practical informationtheoretic approach, 2nd edn. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Cai W, Crimp S, Jones R, McInnes K, Durack P, Cechet B, Bethols J, Wilkinson S (2005) Climate change in Queensland under enhanced greenhouse conditions, Report 2004-2005. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, VictoriaGoogle Scholar
  9. Canavero A, Arim M (2009) Clues supporting photoperiod as the main determinant of seasonal variation in amphibian activity. J Nat Hist 43(47-48):2975–2984. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Canelas MA, Bertoluci J (2007) Anurans of the Serra do Caraça, southeastern Brazil: species composition and phenological patterns of calling activity. Iheringia 97:21–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crump ML (1974) Reproductive strategies in a tropical anuran community. PhD thesis. University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USAGoogle Scholar
  12. Donnelly MA, Guyer C (1994) Patterns of reproduction and habitat use in an assemblage of Neotropical hylid frogs. Oecologia 98(3-4):291–302. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duellman WE, Trueb L (1986) Biology of amphibians. JHU Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  14. Fogarty JH, Vilella FJ (2001) Evaluating methodologies to survey Eleutherodactylus frogs in montane forests of Puerto Rico. Wildl Soc Bull:948–955Google Scholar
  15. Gottsberger B, Gruber E (2004) Temporal partitioning of reproductive activity in a neotropical anuran community. J Trop Ecol 20(03):271–280. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grant RA, Chadwick EA, Halliday T (2009) The lunar cycle: a cue for amphibian reproductive phenology? Anim Behav 78(2):349–357. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harkey GA, Semlitsch RD (1988) Effects of temperature on growth, development, and color polymorphism in the ornate chorus frog Pseudacris ornata. Copeia 1988(4):1001–1007. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hauselberger KF, Alford RA (2005) Effects of season and weather on calling in the Australian microhylid frogs Austrochaperina robusta and Cophixalus ornatus. Herpetologica 61(4):349–363. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hero J-M, Gascon C, Magnusson WE (1998) Direct and indirect effects of predation on tadpole community structure in the Amazon rainforest. Aust J Ecol 23(5):474–482. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hero J-M, Hines H, Meyer E, Lemckert F, Newell D, Clarke J (2004) Litoria brevipalmata. The IUCN red list of threatened species. Version 2015.2.
  21. Hines JE (2006) PRESENCE—software to estimate patch occupancy and related parameters. USGS-PWRC.
  22. IPCC (2014) Climate change 2014: synthesis report. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  23. Jones N, Bakker M, Bichet O, Coutts R, Wearing T (2011) Restoring habitat connectivity over the road: vegetation on a fauna land-bridge in south-east Queensland. Ecol Manag Restor 12(1):76–79. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kats LB, Petranka JW, Sih A (1988) Antipredator defenses and the persistence of amphibian larvae with fishes. Ecology 69(6):1865–1870. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Klaus SP, Lougheed SC (2013) Changes in breeding phenology of eastern Ontario frogs over four decades. Ecol Evol 3(4):835–845. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Koch AJ, Hero J-M (2007) The relationship between environmental conditions and activity of the giant barred frog (Mixophyes iteratus) on the Coomera River, south-east Queensland. Aust J Zool 55(2):89–95. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kordas G, Coutts RH, Catterall CP (1993) The vegetation of Karawatha Forest and its significance in the South East Queensland landscape. Griffith University, NathanGoogle Scholar
  28. Lowe KJ, Castley JG, Hero J-M (2015) Resilience to climate change: complex relationships among wetland hydroperiod, larval amphibians and aquatic predators in temporary wetlands. Mar Freshw Res 66(10):886–899. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lowe KJ, Castley JG, Hero J-M (2016) Calling phenology and detectability of a threatened amphibian (Litoria olongburensis) in ephemeral wetlands varies along a latitudinal cline: implications for management. Austr Ecol 41(8):938–951. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. MacKenzie DI, Nichols JD, Lachman GB, Droege S, Andrew Royle J, Langtimm CA (2002) Estimating site occupancy rates when detection probabilities are less than one. Ecology 83(8):2248–2255.[2248:ESORWD]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McMenamin SK, Hadly EA, Wright CK (2008) Climate change and wetland desiccation cause amphibian decline in Yellowstone National Park. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(44):16988–16993Google Scholar
  32. Moore JA (1939) Temperature tolerance and rates of development in the eggs of Amphibia. Ecology 20(4):459–478. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Newman RA (1992) Adaptive plasticity in amphibian metamorphosis. Bioscience 42(9):671–678. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Oseen KL, Wassersug RJ (2002) Environmental factors influencing calling in sympatric anurans. Oecologia 133(4):616–625. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pounds JA, Bustamente MR, Coloma LA, Consuegra JA, Fogden MP, Foster PN, La Marca E, Masters KL, Merino-Viteri A, Puschendorf R, Ron SR (2006) Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature 439(7073):161–167. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Richter-Boix A, Tejedo M, Rezende EL (2011) Evolution and plasticity of anuran larval development in response to desiccation. A comparative analysis. Ecol Evol 1(1):15–25. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ritke ME, Babb JG, Ritke MK (1992) Temporal patterns of reproductive activity in the gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis). J Herpetol 26(1):107–111. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Saenz D, Fitzgerald LA, Baum KA, Connwe RN (2006) Abiotic correlates of anuran calling phenology: the importance of rain, temperature, and season. Herpetol Monogr 20(1):64–82.[64:ACOACP]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Segev O, Hill N, Templeton AR, Blaustein L (2010) Population size, structure and phenology of an endangered salamander at temporary and permanent breeding sites. J Nat Conserv 18(3):189–195. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shirose LJ, Bishop J, Green CA, Green DM, MacDonald CJ, Brooks RJ, Helferty NJ (1997) Validation tests of an amphibian call count survey technique in Ontario, Canada. Herpetologica:312–320Google Scholar
  41. Shuker JD, Simpkins CA, Lollback GW, Castley JG, Hero J-M (2016) Determining environmental limits of threatened species: the example of the wallum sedgefrog Litoria olongburensis. Ecosphere 7(6).
  42. Skelly DK, Werner EE, Cortwright SA (1999) Long-term distributional dynamics of a Michigan amphibian assemblage. Ecology 80:2326–2337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Steelman CK, Dorcas ME (2010) Anuran calling survey optimization: developing and testing predictive models of anuran calling activity. J Herpetol 44(1):61–68. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Stuart SN, Chanson JS, Cox NA, Young BE, Rodrigues AS, Fischman DL, Waller RW (2004) Status and trends of amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide. Science 306(5702):1783–1786. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Toft CA, Duellman WE (1979) Anurans of the lower Rio Llullapichis, Amazonian Peru: a preliminary analysis of community structure. Herpetologica:71–77Google Scholar
  46. Welborn GA, Skelly DK, Werner EE (1996) Mechanisms creating community structure across a freshwater habitat gradient. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 27(1):337–363.
  47. Wells KD (1977) The social behaviour of anuran amphibians. Anim Behav 25:666–693. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wells KD (2010) The ecology and behavior of amphibians. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  49. Whitfield L, Oude-Egberink K, Wecker B, Cravigan L, Pozza RD, Hernaman V, Scott J, Chidzambwa S (2010) Climate change in Queensland: what the science is telling us. Department of Environment and Resource Management,Brisbane 93Google Scholar
  50. Woolbright LL (1985) Patterns of nocturnal movement and calling by the tropical frog Eleutherodactylus coqui. Herpetologica:1–9Google Scholar

Copyright information

© ISB 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.School of Science and EngineeringUniversity of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydoreAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Land and WaterBlack MountainAustralia
  4. 4.Design Unit, EngineeringTweed Shire CouncilMurwillumbahAustralia

Personalised recommendations