Abstract Frog populations are rapidly disappearing throughout the world. An important issue for ecologists to resolve is why some frog species are more susceptible to decline than others. Here, we performed a comparative study of the endemic Australian frog fauna to determine whether the life history and ecology of declining species have predisposed them to extinction. Decline was consistently found to be correlated with geographical range size across contemporary species and in analyses based on phylogenetically independent contrasts (PICs). Species with narrow geographical ranges have been disproportionately more susceptible to decline. Across species, decline was also correlated with large body size and a high proportion of the geographical range overlapping with the distribution of cane toads and landscape stress (e.g. land clearing). We show that with the exception of range size, however, correlates of decline across species are underpinned by a small number of evolutionary events. Hence, the suite of traits that correlate with decline in the cross-species analysis is only relevant to a small number of clades. We also found that clutch size, testes mass, ova size and distributional overlap with feral pigs were not significantly related to decline. In the ongoing search for life-history and ecological correlates of decline and extinction, our results highlight the importance of performing analyses across contemporary species and using PICs.