Turtle Frog

B. Maryan

Photo Credit: B. Maryan

The Turtle Frog is a unique amphibian that lives in the arid southwest of Australia. Immediately, the appearance of this small (approximately two inch long) frog sets it apart. The Turtle Frog’s head is distinct from the body, which is uncommon among frogs. The eyes are small, and the back is slightly domed. Rather than being under the body, the Turtle Frog’s legs extend out to the sides. All of these factors together give the Turtle Frog the appearance of, yes, a turtle!

However, there is much more to set the Turtle Frog apart than just an unusual appearance.

These desert amphibians use their powerful legs to burrow forward through sandy soil, unlike most other frogs that use strong back legs to burrow backward. These powerful limbs also allow the Turtle Frog to invade termite mounds, where it may eat as many as 400 termites at once.

The Turtle Frog spends most of its time beneath rocks, logs, or underground. After summer rains, the male frog emerges to find a mate. He will call to attract a female, and, once a mate is chosen, the pair will dig a burrow together, which may be up to four feet deep. Unusual in the solitary world of frogs, the pair will live together in this burrow for the next several months, after which time, mating occurs.

The female Turtle Frog will lay up to 50 of what are some of the largest eggs found among Australian frogs. These eggs, remarkably, do not require standing water to develop and hatch. In fact, when the eggs hatch, a fully formed, albeit miniature, Turtle Frog emerges, skipping the tadpole stage entirely.

Although undeniably specialized and unique, the Turtle Frog is not endangered, and the population remains at low risk. With a wide distribution over an area with little human habitation, the Turtle Frog should be around for a long time to come.