Also known as ‘the little red man’, Archey’s frog are the smallest and most slender of New Zealand’s indigenous frogs. Males reach SVLs (snout-vent-lengths) of up to 31mm, while females are larger reaching sizes of up to 37mm SVL. Individuals can be mainly brown or mainly green (rare), or have combinations of green, brown, and red. Thighs are less brightly coloured, feet have non-webbed (or barely webbed) toes. Archey’s frog have no visible external eardrum. A distinct glandular ridge runs backwards from the eye.
Coromandel Peninsular and Whareorino Forest.
Ecology and habitat
A fully terrestrial species which inhabit native forest, grassy clearings and sub alpine scrub away from streams or creeks at an altitudinal range of 400-1000m. Archey’s frog are nocturnal, sheltering by day under stones and logs.
Archey’s frog move slowly and deliberately and may use chemical signalling. They do not emit loud breeding calls but may give out a startle call when threatened by predators.
Reproduction takes place under damp vegetation. Males are the primary caregivers; they prepare nests, as well as producing antimicrobial secretions into, and guarding nests to encourage successful embryonic development. Clutch sizes vary from 4-15 eggs. Tadpoles develop within a gelatinous egg, after hatching froglets crawl onto the males back and are carried with the father for several weeks while undergoing metamorphosis.
Research has shown that Archey’s frog have a low susceptibility to amphibian chytrid fungus. Frogs in field studies have exhibited symptoms of a variety of diseases. The species is susceptible to metabolic bone disease.
Archey’s frog are listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN red list and ‘nationally endangered’ on the DOC threat classification system. Populations have declined rapidly (up to 88% for monitored populations). The population crash is thought to be the result of disease, predation, and habitat destruction and modification. One theory is that an environmental contaminant such as pesticides or poisons may cause sub lethal stress, leading to increased susceptibility to pathogens. Archey’s frog are a priority species for the NZ Native Frog Recovery Group and a successful breeding programme has been set up at Auckland Zoo.
- Gill, B., & Whitaker, A.H. (2007). New Zealand frogs and reptiles. Auckland: David Bateman Limited.
- Jewell, T. (2011). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland Publishers Ltd.
- Waldman, B. (2011). Brief encounters with Archey’s frog. FrogLog, vol. 99.
- Waldman, B., & Bishop, P.J. (2004). Chemical communication in an archaic anuran amphibian. Behavioural Ecology, 15, 88-93.
- Waldman, B., & van de Wolfshaar, K.E., Klena, V.A., Andjic, V., Bishop, P.J., & Norman, R.J. (2001). Chytridiomycosis in New Zealand frogs. Surveillance, 28, 3, 9-11.