Today’s photo shows a spotted marsh frog seen at Lucas. Its occurrence in an open spot in the middle of the day seemed odd, but opportune for pictures.
It was only after photographs had been taken that we paid more attention to the unmoving creature behind. This appeared at first glance to be some sort of rather colourful millipede.
We then realised why the frog had not moved during our photography – the “millipede” was grasping the frog’s rear foot and was not inclined to release its hold.
The frog was not full-grown, so the presence of such a large creature attached to its rear foot was a significant impediment.
We picked up the frog, with creature attached, and found the creature to be not a millipede at all, but a six-legged insect with a rather flattened body. In many respects it resembled a centipede, except for its six legs.
Thinking that it had somehow attached itself to the frog’s foot by accident, we attempted to separate the two. The insect’s jaws remained firmly in place until – after much twisting, turning and quite forceful squeezing on our part - it finally released its hold.
It was placed on the ground, where it moved away, while the frog was dipped in water to rehydrate its drying skin and then released into nearby shaded wetland vegetation.
The insect’s fine, curved and powerful jaws suggested it was some sort of predator, perhaps a beetle.
Later research revealed it was probably a type of ground beetle.
Ground beetles are hunters in both their larval and adult stages. We were surprised to learn there are some species that grasp onto frogs – often around the front of the body rather than the foot – inserting their pincer-like jaws while they suck and chew until the frog is no more.
The affected frog seems incapable of removing its persistent – and often quite large - predator. So, our insect had not grasped the frog’s foot accidentally.
It was at least 20mm long, indicating it was nearly fully grown and close to pupation. The spotted marsh frog would probably have been the last meal it required.
Small, starling-sized waterbirds known as crakes have returned to local wetlands.
Three species – Baillon’s, spotted and spotless – have been seen at Lake Wendouree and Mullawallah Wetlands, with reports of spotless crake at Creswick and Linton as well.
A little bittern at Lake Wendouree is another notable rare waterbird discovery. This species is not seen here every year.