Cute little frog loves to dig

Wildlife biologists like to ‘say it as it is’, rarely using elaborate and fanciful words when describing an animal or plant. This is why the Ornate Burrowing Frog is generally described as stubby and relatively small, or round and stout.

The Ornate Burrowing Frog has undergone a number of name changes over the years. It is currently known as Platyplectrum ornatum, although many reference books still list it as either Opisthodon ornatus or Limnodynastes ornatus.

So many different ways to describe such a wee frog, but whatever the words you use, this little amphibian is definitely a cutie.

Rarely reaching more 50 millimetres in length, this little frog escapes predators and the hot Australian sun by burrowing feet first into the soil using the large bumpy bits on its hind feet to help scrape away soil. Like most burrowing frogs, the Ornate Burrowing Frog has no webbing at all on its front feet and only a slight amount on its hind feet. When you think about it webbed feet aren’t that useful when you are digging in the dirt.

The Ornate Burrowing Frog has a wide home range and can be found from Western Sydney to Cape York, across the Top End and into Western Australia in a wide variety of habitats, and is regularly seen around Katherine.

Our fat little friend has colourations almost as varied as its habitat and can be anything from grey to brown and yellow in colour, with a variety of patterns and warty bits decorating its top side. One commonly seen pattern that makes them a little easier to identify, is the slightly butterfly shaped patch behind its eyes and barred or spotted arms and legs.

It can easily be mistaken for a young cane toad which is why you should always restrict your toad-busting activities to critters over 5cm in length.

Like most Australian frogs the Ornate Burrowing Frog breeds in the wet season. The male will float in shallow puddles calling out to his prospective ladies with a gulping “unk, unk” call. Female frogs lay around 1000 eggs in a foam nest created by slapping their hands down on the surface of the water to create bubbles. 

If you are planning a hike along the southern walking tracks in Nitmiluk over the coming weeks, keep an eye out down by the water. You might spot your own little Burrowing Frog preparing for the dry.