The Archey’s Frog, a Critically Endangered species from New Zealand
The Archey’s Frog, Leiopelma archeyi (Leiopelmatidae) is a rare frog endemic to New Zealand. It is the smallest of the indigenous species (<38 mm) which are restricted to two regions on the North Island of New Zealand .
Archey’s frog is one of the world’s most primitive frogs, almost indistinguishable from the fossilized remains of frogs that lived 150 million years ago, leading to its description as a “living fossil” .
Leiopelma archeyi has bizarre features such as tail-wagging muscles (despite having no tail to wag) and no eardrums. It therefore does not communicate by sound, but is instead thought to employ scent. The male guards the eggs in moist nests and the tailed froglets that hatch out crawl onto the father’s back where they remain for several weeks whilst they develop .
Formerly, this species was recorded in the tens of thousands, but declines since 1996 have reduced the numbers throughout their range. The decline was first noted in 1996; one study population on the Tapu Ridge declined by 88% (433 frogs down to 53 frogs) over the period 1996-2002. So, L. archeyi is classified as a Critically Endangered species on the IUCN Red List .
It is primarily threatened by a virulent fungal disease (chytridiomycosis), as well as introduced predators such as rats and mice .
Photo credit: ©James T. Reardon