The Baw Baw frog was first discovered in 1898 on Mount Baw Baw in Victoria, when a tiger snake disgorged five specimens. This species lives only in the alpine heath and grassland of the Baw Baw Plateau in eastern Victoria, although it has also been found recently in moist eucalypt forests on the edges of the plateau. 'Philoria frosti' is listed as critically endangered by the international conservation organisation IUCN.
This particular Baw Baw frog is the actual specimen, the 'holotype', used to describe the newly discovered species in 1901.
The Baw Baw frog is coloured mostly dark brown with cream-yellow flecks or patches on its head and back, and is cream-yellow with brown flecks on its underside. The skin surface contains warts. A prominent skin gland behind each eye secretes a milky neurotoxin that deters predators. Adult females are on average larger (52 mm long) than the males (45 mm long). The fingers and toes lack webbing.
The Baw Baw frog breeds from October to December in the wet cavities of vegetation, logs, soil or rocks. Male frogs call day and night, and females lay eggs over a 2-3 week period. From 80 to 185 eggs develop attached to vegetation inside transparent foam nests made of captured air bubbles. The hatching tadpoles are aquatic and are sustained initially by large yolk sacs.
'Philoria frosti' numbers have declined rapidly from 10,000-15,000 breeding males in 1983 to recent estimates of just a few hundred remaining adults. The reason for this decline is uncertain, but it may indicate environmental disturbance. Baw Baw frogs live in very specific habitats in a restricted and fragile environment that is affected by forestry and recreation. Climate change, feral animal predation and pathogens such as fungi may also be contributing to its decline.
Frogs are widely regarded to be important 'indicators' of environmental changes, as they are particularly sensitive to air and water pollution. Their soft thin permeable skin makes them vulnerable to minor alterations in their habitat. Frog numbers have declined worldwide. Scientists are concerned about the human influence on the rate of extinction of frog species, plants and other animals worldwide.