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Explore Queensland Museum Network’s extensive collection of reptiles and amphibians and discover the research that enhances our understanding of herpetology.
Queensland Museum’s frog and reptile collections are some of the oldest in Australia and underpin our inhouse research projects, describing new species and clarifying taxonomic problems. It consists of preserved specimens, tissue samples for genetic analyses and skeletal material. Each item has accompanying collection data. The collections are frequently used by visiting scientists or sent out on inter-museum loans to be studied in other institutions. They are used for many purposes; specimen identification, defining distributions and historical changes in abundance; determining an animal’s diet and reproductive cycles; and identifying skeletal remains and midden material.
The frog collections were used for tracking the history of the introduction and spread of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a fungal pathogen that has decimated frog populations and led to the extinction of several Australian frog species. The reptile collections provided ecological information for many species of Australian snakes, which was later augmented by field studies.
The collection has generated a wealth of information in the form of journal articles, field guides, reports, and popular publications. It is fundamental tool for studies aimed at preserving Queensland’s rich frog and reptile diversity.
Herpetology is a branch of zoology that involves the scientific study of amphibians and reptiles. It includes frogs, toads, salamanders, caecilians, snakes, lizards, amphisbaenids, turtles and tortoises, crocodiles and the Tuatara.
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The museum’s reptile and amphibian collections contain 89,239 records. These include 33,554 amphibians (mostly frogs); 38,174 lizards, 14,396 snakes, 2,860 turtles and 231 crocodiles. It includes all Queensland’s known frog species and 98% of Queensland’s reptile species.
The type collection is recognised as the world’s 16th largest, containing the primary types of 72 frog species and 192 reptile species. It includes the type specimens of most of the leaf-tailed geckos, many of Australia’s microhylid frogs and several monotypic genera; Coggeria (Satinay Sand Skink), Nangura (Nangur Spiny Skink), Orraya (McIlwraith Leaf-tailed Gecko), Elusor (Mary River Turtle) and Rheodytes (Fitzroy Turtle).
The collection also includes several frogs that are now thought to be extinct (Rheobatrachus silus) Southern Gastric Brooding Frog; Rheobatrachus vitellinus, Northern Gastric Brooding Frog; Taudactylus diurnus, Mount Glorious Torrent Frog; Taudactylus acutirostris, Sharp-snouted Torrent Frog; Taudactylus rheophilus, Northern Tinker Frog and Litoria nyakalensis, Mountain Mist Frog) and significant holdings of sea snakes (spirit and skeletal) and marine turtles (skeletal).
Through field work, collection enhancement and taxonomic studies, museum herpetologists document the state’s extraordinarily rich herpetofauna. Leaf-tailed geckos (Orraya occultus, Phyllurus spp. and Saltuarius spp.), Ring-tailed geckos (Cyrtodactylus spp.) and reduce-limbed, burrowing skinks (Lerista spp.) have been a major focus of the section’s research projects. The leaf-tailed geckos have a broken distribution through rock/rainforest habitats in coastal, eastern Australia, from northern New South Wales to Cape York. Investigations of isolated rainforest patches have yielded new species and led to the recognition that rock habitats have played an important role in the persistence of rainforest lineages through past episodes of climate change. The term ‘lithorefugia’ was coined to recognise these habitats. This realisation led to the investigation of other rocky habitats in far north Queensland and the description of four new species of Ring-tailed geckos. These studies identify important habitats and conservation priorities. They inform land management decisions and help to shape environmental policy.
Current investigations centre on cryptic diversity in the genus Lerista and have resulted in the discovery and description of several new species from the Charters Towers district. Genetic studies point to the presence of additional, undescribed taxa within this genus.