NZ climate good for long life, frog study finds
6:00AM Friday Mar 27, 2009

New Zealand's climate is much better than Australia's when it comes to living a long life, according to research from a study of frogs.

Victoria University of Wellington has revealed that the tiny Maud Island frog, a threatened amphibian, can reach the grand age of 37, the oldest recorded age of any frog out of captivity.

Professor Ben Bell, a researcher on the study, said similar long lives could be seen in other animals in Godzone.

"In frog terms, it's very comfortable here and it helps them to live longer. Australia has some amazing frogs that do very interesting things, but I don't know of any as long lived as these ones.

"Animals tend to do this in New Zealand, live for a very long time, like the geckos and the tuatara and the frogs are just following suit," Professor Bell said.

"There's something about the very comfortable climate, the few extremes in weather, that works for them and allows them to just keep on going."

He has tracked the lone population on Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds for 25 years to discover the oldest three are now at least 34, 35 and 37.

"They could be even older than this, and they may just keep on living for years to come. We just don't know."

The species, less than 5cm in length, has already made the record books as the world's most primitive frog, as evidenced by extra vertebra and ribs in its skeleton.

They are also unusual in that they don't croak and cannot hear well, because they don't have external ears like modern frogs.

"They've also got these large eyes almost like headlights on a Volkswagen Beetle that help them see in the dark," Professor Bell said. Unlike most species in Australia, the Maud frogs are ambush feeders, preferring to just sit and wait for the food to come to them.

The population remains stable at 25,000 frogs, largely because their island home is predator-free.

- AAP

From here.