Rheobatrachus vitellinus
Northern Gastric Brooding Frog
family: Myobatrachidae
subfamily: Myobatrachinae

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Extinct (EX)
See IUCN account.
CITES Appendix II
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Australia

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
Population and Distribution
Rheobatrachus vitellinus was discovered in January 1984 (Mahony et al. 1984) and was found exclusively in undisturbed rainforest in Eungella NP, mid-E. Queensland at altitudes of 400-1000 m (Covacevich & McDonald 1993). The area of occurrence of R. vitellinus was less than 500 km2 (map in McDonald 1990). The species was considered common across its range until Jan. 1985 when the first signs of decline (reported by Winter and McDonald 1986) were observed at lower altitudes (ie. about 400 m) (McDonald 1990). At higher altitudes the frogs remained common until March 1985 but were absent in June of that year (McDonald 1990). Despite continued efforts to locate the species, Rheobatrachus vitellinus has not been recorded within Eungella NP or any other locations since March 1985 (Ingram and McDonald 1993; McDonald and Alford 1999).

Rheobatrachus vitellinus was formerly known from Eungella NP and Mt Pelion SF (Tyler 1997) and was not recorded on private lands.

Rheobatrachus vitellinus was recorded from pristine rainforest where the only form of human disturbance was a poorly defined walking trail (McDonald 1990). The species occurred in first- to third-order streams (McDonald 1990). Individuals were located in shallow, rocky, broken-water areas, in cascades, riffles and trickles, but were absent from the pools of water found between riffles (McDonald 1990). The water in these streams is cool and clear, and individuals hid away beneath or between boulders in the current or in backwaters (Tyler 1989).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Rheobatrachus vitellinus brooded its young in its stomach and gave birth through the mouth (McDonald and Tyler 1984; see Rheobatrachus silus for account of reproduction in similar species). In the only documented case, 22 metamorphs were brooded in the stomach of one female (McDonald and Tyler 1984). Upon collection the stomach of the female was reported to be greatly distended and during road transport the individual began to give birth (McDonald and Tyler 1984). The birth lasted approximately 34 hours (McDonald and Tyler 1984). The young were born underwater, though it is not known whether this underwater birth was a natural phenomenon or a consequence of the conditions in which the female was held (McDonald and Tyler 1984).

This species was both an aquatic and stream edge feeder (Winter and McDonald 1986). The diet of R. vitellinus included small crayfish, caddisfly larvae, terrestrial and aquatic beetles and a sympatric frog species Taudactylus eungellensis (Winter and McDonald 1986).

Impact of Invasive Species
Eungella NP is subject to weed invasion on the edges of the reserve (Winter and McDonald 1986).

Trends and Threats
Despite continued efforts to locate the species, R. vitellinus has not been recorded within Eungella NP or any other locations since March 1985 (Ingram and McDonald 1993; Richards et al. 1993; Hero et al. 1998; McDonald and Alford 1999). The cause of the population decline remains unknown. McDonald (1990) found no obvious evidence that seasonal rarity, over-collecting, predation, drought, floods, habitat destruction, disease, heavy parasite loads or stress due to handling for data collection were responsible for the population declines. It was thought that the decline observed in 1984-1985 may have been a natural population fluctuation and that residual individuals had retreated to hidden refuges (Winter and McDonald 1986; McDonald 1990). The extent of such population fluctuations is unknown, but there is evidence of large swings in numbers of other Australian frogs (McDonald 1990).



Covacevich, J.A. and McDonald, K.R. (1993). ''Distribution and conservation of frogs and reptiles of Queensland rainforests.'' Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 34(1), 189-199.

Hero, J-M., Hines, H.B., Meyer, E., Morrison, C., and Streatfeild, C. (1999). ''New records of 'declining' frogs in Queensland (April 1999).'' Frogs in the Community – Proceedings of the Brisbane Conference 13–14 February 1999. R. Natrass, eds., Queensland Museum, Brisbane.

Hero, J.-M., Hines, H.B., Meyer, E., Morrison, C., Streatfeild, C., and Roberts, L. (1998). ''New records of 'declining' frogs in Queensland, Australia.'' Froglog, 29, 1-4.

Ingram, G. J., and McDonald, K. R. (1993). ''An update on the decline of Queensland's frogs.'' Herpetology in Australia: A diverse discipline. D. Lunney and D. Ayers, eds., Transactions of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, 297-303.

Mahony, M., Tyler, M.J., and Davies, M. (1984). ''A new species of the genus Rheobatrachus (Anura: Leptodactylidae) from Queensland.'' Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 108(3), 155-162.

McDonald, K. and Alford, R. (1999). ''A review of declining frogs in northern Queensland.'' Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. A. Campbell, eds., Environment Australia, Canberra. Available in .pdf format online.

McDonald, K.R. (1990). ''Rheobatrachus Liem and Taudactylus Straughan and Lee (Anura: Leptodactylidae) in Eungella National Park, Queensland: distribution and decline.'' Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 114(4), 187-194.

McDonald, K.R. and Tyler, M.J. (1984). ''Evidence of gastric brooding in the Australian leptodactylid frog Rheobatrachus vitellinus.'' Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 108, 226.

Richards, S. J., McDonald, K. R., and Alford, R. A. (1993). ''Declines in populations of Australia's endemic rainforest frogs.'' Pacific Conservation Biology, 1, 66-77.

Tyler, M.J. (1989). Australian Frogs. Penguin Books Australia Ltd., Victoria.

Tyler, M.J. (1997). The Action Plan for Australian Frogs. Wildlife Australia, Canberra, ACT.

Winter, J. and McDonald, K. (1986). ''Eungella, the land of cloud.'' Australian Natural History, 22(1), 39-43.

Written by J.-M. Hero; L. Shoo; C. Morrison; M. Stoneham; H. Hines; M. (m.hero AT, Griffith University
First submitted 2002-04-05
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2010-10-14)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2010 Rheobatrachus vitellinus: Northern Gastric Brooding Frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Oct 28, 2016.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2016. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 28 Oct 2016.

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