Molecular phylogeny and cryptic diversity in Australia's largest genus of Myobatrachid frog

A project undertaken at the Australian National University, and supervised by Prof. Scott Keogh

The Myobatrachidae (22 genera, 120+ species), or “southern frogs” is wholly endemic to the Australo-Papuan region yet we still have a great deal to learn about their true diversity, particularly in remote and rugged regions such as the Kimberley and Top End.  The large myobatrachid genus Uperoleia, commonly referred to as “toadlets”, was the only large genus that had not received any attention by molecular systematics, and it was in need of taxonomnic attention. We had four major aims which included conducting a cryptic species screen based on mtDNA and all existing tissue samples from unique localities (over 600), generating a multi-gene phylogeny for representatives of all discovered mtDNA clades, revising the taxonomy of the group and using our results to inform conservation.  Our work has revealed that our current understanding of Uperoleia taxomomy poorly reflects real diversity.  Multiple new species will be described as part of our work and a dated molecular phylogeny will be used to test hypotheses concerning the biogeographic history of the Top End in particular. 

Figure Captions

Photos in life of Uperoleia species from northwestern Australia.  Photos by B. Maryan.

Figure 1. Uperoleia glandulosa from Strelly River Crossing
Figure 2. U. micromeles from Telfer
Figure 3. U. russelli from Mt. Augstus Homestead
Figure 4. A new species from Mt. Brockman
Figure 5. Another picture of the above species
Figure 6. U. talpa from Fitzroy Crossing