Fleays barred frog small

Fleay’s barred frog (Mixophyes fleayi). Pastel on paper, original size 21 x 29.5 cm.


This is Fleay’s barred frog, one of several species of large frog in the genus Mixophyes that occur in or near streams associated with Australian wet forests. Now when you look at a frog, you might think that it’s a short-lived, rather ephemeral creature. Tadpoles come and go, and both frogs and tadpoles make tasty snacks for many other animals. But have you ever wondered how old frogs are? I mean, in terms of evolutionary time?

Some scientists have estimated that the Mixophyes frog lineage has been around for about 90 million years. That’s a lot longer than the human lineage, or even the lineages of most modern mammals. Furthermore, it may have been the diversification of flowering plants in the Cretaceous, and the associated diversification of insects, that also triggered the evolution of many different types of frogs. Around 82% of recent amphibian species live in forests, which may indicate that frogs and flowering plants have a long history together.

It’s highly likely that frogs like this Fleay’s barred frog have been mooching around in the leaf litter and streams of Australian forests for millions of years longer than people, pademelons or even fruit pigeons, have existed. You might want to think about that, next time you go for a walk in the rainforest, and see some fat tadpoles in a stream, or hear a frog calling.