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Main’s Frog

Cyclorana maini

Main’s Frog
Common Name
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Main’s Frog • Cyclorana maini

Frog - Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park

This water-holding frog has adapted to desert conditions. This species lives in some of the harshest country in the arid region of Central Australia. Usually found in temporary pools in watercourses, claypans and other short-lived bodies of water, its habitat also include open grassland, lightly forested areas and temporary marshes and streambeds in temporary flood plains.
Grouped together with other burrowing frogs, it survives the dry periods by absorbing water into its body, burrowing deep underground, and encasing itself in a watertight bag (cocoon), awaiting the next major rain fall.

At the onset of aestivation, these frogs assume a 'water-conserving' posture and become inactive. A thin, transparent cocoon is observed to form within a week of onset of inactivity, and becomes progressively thicker and more opaque. The cocoon covers the entire body surface, including mouth, eyes and cloaca, except for the narial openings.1

The frog is named after Professor Bert Main of the University of Western Australia, a pioneer of southern Western Australia frogs.2


Its skin may vary from pale grey-brown, olive-brown, dull green on its back, with darker patches. The back is smooth or slightly rough or warty in appearance. Look for the distinct pale stripe that runs along the spine. There is often a dark lateral head stripe.

The male frogs breeding call sounds like the bleating of sheep.

The tadpoles of the Mains Frog are fairly large, varying in colour from orange-gold, copper pink over a grey base, dense grey-gold or dull gold with dark speckling.3

Some environmental situations, such as the tadpoles living in a small amounts of water, which would naturally heat to higher temperatures, is known to trigger the tadpoles to develop at a faster rate, developing into adults frogs within 14 days.

Tadpoles (that did not complete the life cycle) at Palm Valley (Finke Gorge National Park)
It could have been just the wrong pool of water, overcrowding, insufficient food
or the strength of the midday sun that saw the demise of these tadpoles.

This seemingly hurried lifecycle from egg to tadpole to adult frogs is a common feature of frogs from the arid and desert region, as water when it does fall is usually only around for a brief period. Nowhere is it more evident then seeing a former pool of water, drying out, still filled with tadpoles that did not grow quick enough to complete their lifecycle.

The frog feeds mainly on insects, particularly termites, which a single frog may eat at the rate of several hundred per meal.4

Common Name Scientific Name Where Found
Main’s Frog
Sheep Frog
Western Collared Frog
Cyclorana maini Found through the arid regions of Australia stretching from the central coast of Western Australia through to central region of the Northern Territory and the extreme north west corner of South Australia.3,5
Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Hylidae
Genus: Cyclorana
Species: C maini
Binomial name: Cyclorana maini
Cyclorana maini • Images
Tadpoles (with developing rear limbs) at Palm Valley (Finke Gorge National Park) Newly developed frog at Palm Valley (Finke Gorge National Park) Newly developed frog at Palm Valley (Finke Gorge National Park)
Frog - Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park Frog - Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park Frog - Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park

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Other links - Main’s Frog (Cyclorana maini) • Source


1 CSIRO Publishing, Australian Journal of Zoology, Cocoon Formation and Structure in the Estivating Australian Desert Frogs, Neobatrachus and Cyclorana, Retrieved September 9, 2008, from
2 Western Australian Museum, Frogs in this region, Sheep or Main’s Frog
3 Australian Frog Database Cyclorana maini
4 Parks & Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory - Wildlife Identikit: Common Animals of Central & Arid Australia.
5 Environment Protection Authority - Frog Census, Main’s Frog
> Northern Australian Frogs Database System, Main’s Frog
> Frogs of Australia - Main’s Frog
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