August 25, 2010

Pea-Sized Frog Discovered In Borneo

Scientists have discovered one of the world's tiniest frogs--a microhylid that between 10.6 and 12.8 millimeters big, or roughly the size of a pea--in the forests of Borneo.

The frog, which was dubbed 'Microhyla nepenthicola' after the type of plant (Nepenthes ampullaria) it called home on the Southeast Asian island, was discovered by Dr. Indraneil Das of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, and Dr. Alexander Hass of the Biozentrum Grindel und Zoologisches Museum of Hamburg.

"I saw some specimens in museum collections that are over 100 years old. Scientists presumably thought they were juveniles of other species, but it turns out they are adults of this newly-discovered micro species," Dr. Das said in a press release dated August 25.

According to the press release, the miniature frogs were discovered along the edge of a road that lead to the Gunung Serapi mountain summit in Kubah National Part. The frogs were reportedly difficult to find, due to their small size. The researchers used their call to lure them onto white cloth, and afterwards were able to observe them.

The study is part of a Conservation International and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Amphibians Specialist Group project in which scientists have been working globally, attempting to rediscover and relocate 100 species of amphibians thought to be extinct.

"Amphibians are the most threatened group of animals, with a third of them in danger of extinction," the press release notes. "The search, which is taking place in 20 countries on five continents, will help scientists to understand the recent amphibian extinction crisis."

Next up for Dr. Das is a September excursion to Indonesia and Malaysia, where he will lead a team of researchers in the hunt for the Sambas Stream Toad (Ansonia latidisca). According to the press release, the Sambas Stream Toad was last observed approximately six decades ago, and likely faced population decline due to the increased sedimentation in streams caused by logging.


Image 1: A freshly metamorphosed (averaging 3.5mm) Microhyla nepenthicola sp. nov. on a penny. The Old' World's smallest frog and one of the world's tiniest was found in the heath forests of Borneo. © Prof. Indraneil Das/ Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation

Image 2: A new species of miniature frog was discovered in Borneo. Microhyla nepenthicola, shown here on the tip of a pencil, is about the size of a pea. © Prof. Indraneil Das/ Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation


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