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Tiny Frog Has Toxic Little Secret

November 4, 2010

A tiny frog, whose body is less than a half-inch long, feeds on toxic mites and releases their poison onto its skin to deter predators from eating it, scientists studying the amphibian reported on Wednesday.

The Monte Iberia Eleuth — Eleutherodactylus iberia — named after a mountain in Cuba which is its only known habitat, is also only one of five species of frog that share the odd ability to rob toxic alkaloids from their food and exude the compound on to their skin.

The micro-frog is the smallest frog in the northern hemisphere and the second smallest in the world after the Brazilian gold frog, which is slightly smaller.

The frog is part of a family of amphibians called “robber frogs,” of which some are found in the Caribbean and the United States. The origin of the name is not known.

The study is published by Britain’s Royal Society and appears in the journal Biology Letters.

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