Water relations of the burrowing sandhill frog, Arenophyrne rotunda (Myobatrachidae)
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Arenophryne rotunda is a small (2–8 g) terrestrial frog that inhabits the coastal sand dunes of central Western Australia. While sand burrowing is a strategy employed by many frog species inhabiting Australia’s semi-arid and arid zones, A. rotunda is unique among burrowing species because it lives independently of free water and can be found nocturnally active on the dune surface for relatively extended periods. Consequently, we examined the physiological factors that enable this unique frog to maintain water balance. A. rotunda was not found to have any special adaptation to reduce EWL (being equivalent to a free water surface) or rehydrate from water (having the lowest rehydration rate measured for 15 Western Australian frog species), but it was able to maintain water balance in sand of very low moisture (1–2%). Frogs excavated in the field were in dune sand of 4.4% moisture content, as a consequence of recent rain, which was more than adequate for these frogs to maintain water balance as reflected by their low plasma and urine osmotic concentrations. We suggest that in dry periods of the year, A. rotunda can achieve positive water balance by cutaneous water uptake by burrowing deeper into the substrate to where the percent water content is greater than 1.5%.