Mahony, Hines, Bertozzi, Mahony, Newell, Clarke & Donnellan, 2022
The six species of mountain frogs (Philoria: Limnodynastidae: Anura) are endemic to south-eastern Australia. Five species occur in headwater systems in mountainous north-eastern New South Wales (NSW) and south-eastern Queensland (Qld), centred on the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. A previous molecular genetic analysis identified divergent genetic lineages in the central and western McPherson Ranges region of Qld and NSW, but sampling was inadequate to test the species status of these lineages. With more comprehensive geographic sampling and examination of the nuclear genome using SNP analysis, we show that an undescribed species, P. knowlesi sp. nov., occurs in the central and western McPherson Ranges (Levers Plateau and Mount Barney complex). The new species is not phylogenetically closely related to P. loveridgei in the nuclear data but is related to one of two divergent lineages within P. loveridgei in the mtDNA data. We postulate that the discordance between the nuclear and mtDNA outcomes is due to ancient introgression of the mtDNA genome from P. loveridgei into the new species. Male advertisement calls and multivariate morphological analyses do not reliably distinguish P. knowlesi sp. nov. from any of the Philoria species in northeast NSW and southeast Qld. The genetic comparisons also enable us to define further the distributions of P. loveridgei and P. kundagungan. Samples from the Lamington Plateau, Springbrook Plateau, Wollumbin (Mt Warning National Park), and the Nightcap Range, are all P. loveridgei, and its distribution is now defined as the eastern McPherson Ranges and Tweed caldera. Philoria kundagungan is distributed from the Mistake Mountains in south-eastern Qld to the Tooloom Scrub on the Koreelah Range, southwest of Woodenbong, in NSW, with two subpopulations identified by SNP analysis. We therefore assessed the IUCN threat category of P. loveridgei and P. kundagungan and undertook new assessments for each of its two subpopulations and for the new taxon P. knowlesi sp. nov., using IUCN Red List criteria. Philoria loveridgei, P. kundagungan (entire range and northern subpopulation separately) and P. knowlesi sp. nov. each meet criteria for “Endangered” (EN B2(a)(b)[i, iii]). The southern subpopulation of P. kundagungan, in the Koreelah Range, meets criteria for “Critically Endangered” (CE B2(a)(b)[i, iii]). These taxa are all highly threatened due to the small number of known locations, the restricted nature of their breeding habitat, and direct and indirect threats from climate change, and the potential impact of the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis. Feral pigs are an emerging threat, with significant impacts now observed in Philoria breeding habitat in the Mistake Mountains.
Keywords: Amphibia, Philoria, mountain frog, upland rainforest, molecular genetics
Etymology. Named for Mr Ross Knowles for his significant contribution to environmental conservation in Australia, and his early work on the biology and systematics of Philoria.
Michael J. Mahony, Harry B. Hines, Terry Bertozzi, Stephen V. Mahony, David A. Newell, John M. Clarke and Stephen C. Donnellan. 2022. A New Species of Philoria (Anura: Limnodynastidae) from the uplands of the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area of eastern Australia. Zootaxa. 5104(2); 209-241. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5104.2.3