AmphibiaWeb - Heleioporus australiacus


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Heleioporus australiacus (Shaw & Nodder, 1795)
Giant Burrowing Frog, Eastern Owl Frog
family: Myobatrachidae
subfamily: Limnodynastinae
genus: Heleioporus
Heleioporus australiacus
© 2010 David Nixon (1 of 2)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Vulnerable (VU)
National Status None
Regional Status None


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Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Australia

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Heleioporous australiacus is confined to the e. slopes of the Great Dividing Range and coastal regions from the s. end of the Olney SF n. of Sydney, NSW (Australian Museum records), to Walhalla in the central highlands of e. Vic. (Littlejohn & Martin 1967). The species has been found from near sea level up to 1000 m from the coast to almost 100 km inland along the escarpment of the Great Dividing Range (Gillespie 1990; Rescei 1997; Australian Museum records). The extent of occurrence of the species is about 80 000 km2 (map in Gillespie & Hines 1999). Most records are either from the n. end of the range in the Sydney region or e. Vic. and s.e. NSW (see Gillespie 1990 for a summary of the distribution of H. australiacus in Vic.). There is a notable disjunction in records between Jervis Bay and the Eden District which may be due to either the rarity of the species or the limited survey effort in the region. Available information indicates that H. australiacus is rare (Rescei 1997; Gillespie 1990; Webb 1987). However, information is lacking on the demography of the species and on the size of populations. With few exceptions, recent records of this species have been of a single individual or few individuals (Gillespie 1990; Daly 1996).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
In the southern end of its range the species occurs in a wide range of forest communities including montane sclerophyll woodland, montane riparian woodland, wet, damp and dry sclerophyll forest (Gillespie 1990). In the central coast of NSW the species is associated with sandy soil that support heath vegetation (Mahony 1993). Breeding activity in summer to autumn (Gillespie 1990). Males call from partially flooded burrows at the base of creek banks or beneath dense vegetation beside creeks (Gillespie 1990; Littlejohn & Martin 1967). Breeding occurs at ephemeral pools. Watson and Martin (1973) recorded 775-1239 unpigmented eggs (2.6mm diameter) from four foamy egg masses deposited in standing or slow water in vegetation or burrows. Tadpoles are free-living and metamorphosis occurs at 3 and 11 months (Daly 1996).

Trends and Threats
Rarely encountered despite having a large extent of occurrence. Limited information on distribution and population size, but there has been a > 30% decline in numbers. Vulnerable to habitat degradation.

A range of threatening processes operate across the range of H. australiacus. These include timber harvesting, cattle grazing, fuel reduction burning, introduced terrestrial and aquatic predators and disturbances resulting from urbanisation (Rescei 1997; Gillespie 1990). Road mortality has also been observed (Mahony 1993). The potential impacts of these processes have not been examined. Foxes and cats are common and widespread throughout south-eastern Australia and are potentially a major threatening process to terrestrial frog species such as H. australiacus (Gillespie & Hines 1999).

Conservation Measures
Listed as endangered in the states where it occurs (Qld and NSW) and is therefore protected by State legislation. Protected where its habitat occurs within State Forest or National Parks.


Barker, J., Grigg, G. C., and Tyler, M. J. (1995). A Field Guide to Australian Frogs. Surrey Beatty and Sons, New South Wales.

Daly, G. (1996). ''Observations on the Eastern Owl Frog Heleioporous australiacus (Anura: Myobatrachidae) in southern New South Wales.'' Herpetofauna, 26, 33-42.

Gillespie, G.R. (1990). ''Distribution, habitat and conservation status of the Giant Burrowing Frog, Heleioporus australiacus (Anura: Myobatrachidae), in Victoria.'' Victorian Naturalist, 107, 144-153.

Gillespie, G.R. and Hines, H.B. (1999). ''Status of temperate riverine frogs in south-eastern Australia.'' Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs. A. Campbell, eds., Environment Australia, Canberra, 109-130.

Littlejohn, M.J. and Martin, A.A. (1967). ''The rediscovery of Heleioporous australiacus (Shaw) (Anura: Leptodactylidae) in eastern Victoria.'' Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 80, 31-36.

Mahony, M. J. (1993). ''The status of frogs in the Watagan Mountain Area, the Central Coast of New South Wales.'' Herpetology in Australia: A diverse discipline. D. Lunney and D. Ayers, eds., Surrey Beatty and Sons, Sydney.

Rescei, J. (1997). ''3. The Giant Burrowing Frog Heleioporous australiacus.'' Threatened frogs of New South Wales: Habitats, Status and Conservation. H. Ehmann, eds., Frog and Tadpole Study Group of New South Wales, Sydney, 56-65.

Watson, G.F. and Martin, A.A. (1973). ''Life history, larval morphology and relationships of Australian leptodactylid frogs.'' Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 97, 25-34.

Webb, G. (1983). ''Diet in a herpetofaunal community on the Hawkesbury Sandstone Formation in the Sydney area.'' Herpetofauna, 14, 87-91.

Webb, G. (1991). ''A survey of the reptiles and amphibians of Bondi State Forest and surrounding areas, near Bombala, NSW.'' Australian Zoologist, 27, 14-19.

Webb, G. (1993). Significance of the Giant Burrowing Frog (Heleioporous australiacus) in the Bomaderry Creek Reserve. Submission to the Land and Environment Court, Leach vs NPWS of NSW.

Webb, G.A. (1987). ''A note on the distribution and diet of the Giant Burrowing Frog Heleioporous australiacus (Shaw and Nodder 1795) (Anura: Myobatrachidae).'' Herpetofauna, 17(2), 20-22.

Originally submitted by: Jean-Marc Hero et. al. (first posted 2002-04-05)
Edited by: Ambika Sopory, Jean-Marc Hero (2008-09-16)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2008 Heleioporus australiacus: Giant Burrowing Frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 28, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 28 May 2024.

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