It turns out that tiny discoveries have large value as a team of researchers has found seven (7) new species of miniature frogs living on seven (7) different mountains in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, following a five (5) year expedition.
The colorful animals are so small that they can sit comfortably on your finger nail, and it’s hard not to think of the word “adorable” when describing them. The newly discovered (7) species can be distinguished from one and other by their skin colors and textures, as well as the mountain top that they each live on.
The study, published in the journal PeerJ, informs that all seven (7) species of frogs belong to the genus Brachycephalus, known for including tiny members with bright colors, but also highly poisonous skin that produces a neurotoxin called tetrodoxin. Their jumping abilities are not the best in the world.
In fact, these animals are some of the smallest vertebrates on earth, with adults growing no larger than one (1) centimeter long (or 0.3 inches), making them smaller than most cockroaches these days.
Due to their size, their bodies have also been optimized by undergoing transformations. The miniature frogs only have three (3) toes on their back legs, and only have two (2) fingers on their front legs. For comparison, most of the regular sized frogs have five (5) toes on their back legs, and four (4) fingers on their front legs.
What’s possibly even more remarkable about the discovery is that members belonging to the genus Brachycephalus usually only find suitable habitat on one or two (1 or 2) mountains in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, not seven (7), and so the species are typically separated from one and other by entire valleys. They live in what scientists call “sky islands”.
The team of researchers had a frustrating and nightmareish time trying to find the amphibians. They heard the frogs singing long before they ever laid eyes on them, and they had to follow the sound in order to find them. Even when the researchers were close to the animals they were still hard to detect being as small as they are.
Marcio Pie, professor at the Federal University of Parana in Brazil, gave a statement explaining that “You can hear them singing and there’s probably hundreds of them, but you simply can’t catch them! Because once you get closer, just from the vibration in the ground, they keep silent for, say, twenty (20) minutes or half an hour. And then you have to go through the leaf litter very carefully with your hands”.
Professor Pie went on to say that it takes a lot of practice and it becomes a very frustrating experience to go explore mountains for hours on end and come back empty-handed.
In addition to this field work typically involves two (2) to eight (8) hours of steep trails in order to get to the sites, and then you have to spend the same amount of time in order to get back.
Professor Pie warns that the miniature frogs are in danger of going extinct as their living habitats are restricted to either cloud forests or just a handful of adjacent mountaintops. Not only are the cloud forests extremely sensitive to climate changes, but so are the frogs. On top this, their habitats are also threatened by deforestation.
Image Source: guim.co.uk