The Wet Tropics of Queensland is host to 54 native frog species—22 species are found nowhere else in Australia. Frogs are amphibians, which means that they spend part of their life under water (with gills) and another part of their life on land (with lungs). The gill to lung transformation is called metamorphosis.
In the Daintree area, we have a range of frog types including tree frogs, mist frogs, burrowing frogs, water-holding frogs (which encase themselves in a 'plastic bag' during the dry season) and even frogs which do not have any aquatic tadpoles!
The White-lipped Treefrog (or litoria infrafrenata) at 140mm is the largest frog in Australia and the largest treefrog in the world. In the Wet Tropics it’s also one of the most common. It’s usually a vibrant green although it can camouflage to suit the background colours, for example by turning brown when perched on a paperbark/melaleuca tree.
When the males are ready to mate, the gold stripe on their thighs flushes a salmon-pink colour. With its large toe pads, which help it climb brilliantly, you might see it jumping from a high tree into the water, or sitting on a laundry window looking for a meal of spiders or insects. A long white stripe on the lower jaw is very distinctive, plus its flattened head, long snout and very long legs.
The Northern Barred Frog (mixophyes schevilli) is also large and robust at 100mm. It is a burrowing ground dweller and hides in leaf litter or loose soil during the day, so it’s best to go out spotting on a warm wet night. Look among the leaf litter around streams or nearby pools! Its call is a deep, guttural 'wonk'. It has a distinctive dark stripe extending from its snout to the shoulder and beautiful “tiger”-like irregular bands along the hind legs.
The Northern Barred Frog has impressive bulk yet excellent jumping ability, but it’s not the skinny high flyer that you might see while driving along at night—that’s likely to be the well-named striped rocket frog (litoria nasuta), with its brown striped and very pointed snout, and lanky legs.
One of the most commonly spotted amphibians is not a frog but actually the introduced Cane Toad (rhinella marina). It is solid and heavy with a rough, yellow/brown mottled warty skin all of which distinguish it from the much smoother Northern Barred Frog. They can grow very large—some females up to 380mm.
Cane toads excrete some pretty powerful bufotoxins not just from glands behind the shoulder but from its skin and other glands. Best not to touch, and wash your hands if you do handle one. The Cane Toad is an introduced pest which is causing great environmental damage by directly killing many predator animal species through its toxicity.
It is of little surprise that the Wet Tropics contains one of the richest and most diverse freshwater fish faunas on the Australian continent with about one third of Australia’s 190 or so species of endemic freshwater fishes having been recorded.
However, it was thought that few were endemic, and only in recent years has extensive research been carried out on freshwater fishes from this area.
It now appears that several forms of Rainbowfish may be undescribed endemic species. Some are confined to small rainforest creeks where they are unable to move downstream because of waterfalls. Gobies are common throughout the area, but are often notoriously difficult to identify from each other. They usually lurk on the bottoms of flowing streams. Recent research has shown that there are probably numerous undescribed species of gobies in north-eastern Queensland.
Freshwater fish fauna range in size from the tiny Perchlets and Rainbowfish a few centimetres in length to the large carnivorous Barramundi which can grow to 1.8 metres and 60 kilograms in weight. The high altitude headwaters of streams are often devoid of fish. Here a variety of yabbies and crayfish may be found.
The Barramundi which is distributed throughout tropical Australia, is fairly common in the Wet Tropics with a good population in the Daintree River and nearby streams. It inhabits mostly the middle and lower reaches of streams as well as lagoons. A popular eating fish and prized by sport fishermen, it has an intriguing sex life. Each begins life as a male and later, between three and five years, changes its sex to become female!
There are many interesting fish to be found in the Daintree - Jungle Perch, Butterfish, Long Tom, Gudgeon, Blue-eye, Catfish, Freshwater Bream, Spangled Grunters and Mouth Almighty which has a voracious appetite for almost anything that moves - as long as it is smaller than itself! Archerfish are common. These remarkable fish can shoot a high pressure jet of water with exceptional accuracy, knocking an insect off a branch or leaf a metre or so above the surface.
Extract from "Daintree - Jewel of Tropical North Queensland" by Lloyd Nielsen, reproduced with kind permission
Casting a line in the Daintree River is not without its great rewards. Apart from the scenic beauty or the surrounding natural wildlife there are numerous species of fish that will put up a good fight to get the adrenalin going.
Floating along the Daintree in a hire boat or with a local fishing guide is the best way to experience this magnificent region. From lure fishing to fresh live bait, Mangrove Jack, Trevally and the illustrious Barramundi are some of the catch of the day found along the river.
The local in-shore reef and wrecks of the Daintree coast is also a great start in search of Spanish Mackerel, Tuna, Coral Trout, Nannygai or Reef Sharks. Gaze at the amazing views of Snapper Island and Cape Kimberley Beach while waiting for your first bite of the day.
Mudcrabs are also found around the mangrove swamps, a good start to the seafood feast.
Fishing in the Daintree … there just isn’t anything better.
The Destination Daintree website is a project of the Daintree Marketing Co-Operative Ltd. Site credits...
©2014 The copyright for all the text and images on this site remains with the original authors and creators. Daintree Marketing Cooperative has been granted permission to reproduce said text and images.