¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A few months ago, scientists discovered a ‘new’ frog!¬† So tiny,¬†only the size of a pea when full-grown, this diminutive creature is the second smallest frog in the world.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Although specimens of the little creature have been¬†seen in¬†museums for more than 100 years, they had been misidentified as juveniles of other species.¬† The ‘new’ frog, called Microhyla nepenthicola, was discovered living in and around pitcher plants in a national park on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† How did researchers discover the tiny animal?¬† “We knew the calls of all frogs in the area,” says Dr. Indraneil Das of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, “and this was different.”¬† The researchers tracked the frog by its call which, they explain,¬†was awfully loud for what turned out to be¬†such a¬†little frog.¬†¬†When¬†Das spotted¬†one of them, “I had to trap the frog in one of my baby son’s clean, white diapers,” he explains, “in order to really see what it looked like, it was so tiny.”¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† In studying the newly discovered frog, scientists¬†have learned that the male Microhyla nepenthicola frogs gather at dusk in and around the pitcher plants and ‘sing.’¬† Their ‘song’ is a series of harsh, rasping notes that last for a few minutes, followed by¬†brief intervals of silence.¬†¬†Scientists have also¬†learned that¬†the females deposit their eggs on the¬†pitcher plants’ sides, and the tadpoles grow in liquid that accumulates inside the plant.
¬†¬†¬†¬† The pitcher plant that supports the tiny frog is one of many carnivorous pitcher plant species in Borneo.¬†¬†The pitcher plants where the tiny frogs were discovered¬†were at the edge of a road leading to the summit of a mountain inside Borneo’s Kubah National Park.
¬†¬†¬†¬† The search that led to the discovery of these¬†minuscule frogs is part of an effort by Conservation International (CI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.¬† These two organizations are sending teams of scientists¬†to 20 countries on five continents in search of 100 species of ‘lost’ amphibians.¬† These¬†are amphibians¬†that are considered potentially extinct, but that may be holding on in a few remote places.¬† Amphibians are a highly threatened group of animals, with about a third of them in danger of extinction.¬†¬†Scientists hope that this search will help them to¬†understand the recent amphibian extinction crisis.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Amphibians help maintain healthy freshwater ecosystems, and they help control insects that spread disease and damage crops.¬†¬†“Amphibians are quite sensitive to changes in their surroundings, so we hope the discovery of these miniature frogs will help us to understand what changes in the gobal environment are having an impact on these fascinating animals,” says CI’s Dr. Robin Moore, who organized the search on behalf of CI’s Amphibian Specialist Group.–April Moore