University of Western Australia: New species of toadlet named in honour of Gurrumul

A new distinct species of “squelching” toadlet discovered on the bio-diverse Wessel Islands, off the north-eastern coast of the Northern Territory, has been named in honour of the late musician Gurrumul.

Renee Catullo, from the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Western Australia, and Scott Keogh, from the Research School of Biology at The Australian National University, have published a paper in Zootaxa on the small frog called Gurrumul’s Toadlet.

The species was named after Dr Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu in recognition of his contribution to Australian music and his support of Aboriginal youth which continues today through the Gurrumul Foundation.

“Dr Yunupingu was a member of the Gumatj clan of the Yolŋu people. Yolŋu traditional ownership extends to the Wessel Islands where this species is found.”

Dr Renee Catullo
The frog, which has only been seen once, is part of a highly diverse monsoonal/arid group which have a variation of a long “squelch” as its call.

Their finding is based on three specimens, one female and two juveniles, which were collected in 1993 during a survey of reptiles and amphibians on the remote island located in the Arafura Sea.

The tropical islands consist of sandstone plateaus and hills with a cover of low vegetation. The rugged topology of the island chain is substantially different from the nearby Elcho Islands and the mainland. Due to the isolation of the islands, the ecosystems remain relatively intact.

“The discovery of a unique, endemic species of frog from a unique island chain in northern Australia illustrates how little we know about the true number of species in Australia,” Dr Catullo said.

“This frog species, only known from a single survey in the 1990s, shows that there is still a lot of exploration of Australia to be done, particular in our tropical regions.

“Other work on these islands, and on other rocky outcrops across northern Australia keep finding unique narrow-range species. Hopefully by describing this species, we can encourage further exploration of the nooks and crannies of Australia’s north, and find more and more unique animals.”