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New frog species discovered where childcare falls to father

Here’s one to chalk up for gender equality. A new frog has been discovered where the tadpoles are carried by the dad in a pouch instead of being left to swim.

Meet the “hip-pocket” or pouched frog (sometimes called a marsupial frog) Assa wollumbin, which after genetic analysis is found to be distinct from its close relation called Assa darlingtoni.

The well-camouflaged new frog species discovered in Wollumbin National Park in northern NSW.

The discovery published in the scientific journal Zootaxa states the males carry the tadpoles in pouches under the skin from hatching until they turn into frogs. It states: “The name Assa is Latin for dry nurse [as opposed to wet nurse] which elegantly describes the unique form of parental care…”

There’s a reason why it has only just been discovered. It is tiny, only lives in one place and has camouflage the SAS would be proud of.

Minister for Environment Matt Kean said the NSW government had taken immediate action to protect the tiny frogs, declaring their habitat an Asset of Intergenerational Significance under the National Parks and Wildlife Act to give increased protection.

“This incredible discovery shows just how much we don’t know about the world around us, with this tiny 16mm frog found on just one isolated mountain in the Wollumbin National Park,” Mr Kean said.

“The small population size makes this frog more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which is why the NSW government moved quickly to protect its habitat within days of it being formally described.

This tiny 16mm frog found on just one isolated mountain in the Wollumbin National Park

“A conservation action plan will be developed to ensure the survival of this fascinating frog species, which has been living undiscovered high in the cool forest.”

The tiny frog population is confined to around 2000 hectares on Wollumbin Mountain in the Wollumbin National Park, and is within the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

University of Newcastle’s Michael Mahony was one of the researchers who identified the species.

“The hip-pocket frog is not only unique for its amazing breeding biology among Australian frogs, but it is also unique among frogs of the world, since there are only four of the 4000 species worldwide that have male parental care where the male carries its developing tadpoles,” Dr Mahony said.

The new species will likely meet the criteria for listing as critically endangered due to its specific habitat needs and restricted distribution.

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