Thursday, October 14, 2010

The New Tiny Frog

Because frogs have such a positive impact in controlling insect and pest populations and because of the recent declines in anuran populations, there has been a major push to find all of the species of frogs living around the world. Scientists and researchers have been interested in finding and describing all of the diverse species of amphibians before they are wiped out by habitat destruction, climate change, and infections and diseases.

Given that there has been so much research into frog populations and their distributions, there have been several new discoveries of novel frogs that have not previously been described or documented. There have also been groups of frogs that have been further broken down into different species due to further research. Museum specimens have also been used to determine whether “new” species have been collected before.

Microhyla nepenthicola, a new species of minifrog has recently been discovered in the forests of Borneo. This group of frogs is called mini or micro because of how small it is; they are less than 15 mm in length. The adult males of this new species are only about the size of a pea. They are found in pitcher plants which is how they got their name. They also have a distinctive call that consists of “a series of harsh rasping notes that last for a few minutes with brief intervals of silence.” Their call is distinctive enough that it helped researchers to collect and examine them.

Museum specimens of this minifrog were also found that had been collected over 100 years ago. They were mislabeled as immature stages of other frogs when, in fact, they were a completely different genus. This could be very interesting because there may be other museum specimens of frogs that have also been misidentified and need to be relooked at.

There is an arms race to find as many frog species as possible before they are wiped out by various environmental factors. It is important to determine the effects of environmental changes as well as effects of disease on different groups such as frogs and other amphibians. In studying these different populations and finding new species, light could be shed on the effects of these environmental changes on micro and even macrohabitats.

Abstract of original journal article

Science Daily Article


  1. Before taking this class and researching articles on amphibians, I never knew about the downhill progression of frogs. I assume the liquid at the bottom of pitcher plants has no effect on the frogs since that's where they were found. It also seems like it could be an easy mistake in overlooking this small of a frog as a larval stage.

  2. Another interesting story about unknown species lurking in museum collections. You don't even need to brave the tropics of Borneo to identify a new species. Several families of frogs have mini-species. What family is this species from?

  3. It is amazing how just going through drawers of species that have seemingly already been identified can sometimes yield new discoveries! It just goes to show that our current scientific knowledge is only the tip of the iceberg.
    Tetrapod tracks, feathered dinosaurs, mis-identified frog species are all examples.

  4. It is extreamly interesting that vertebrates are able to achieve such a small body type. I think that alone is an extrodanary evolutionary feat.

  5. I find it amazing that a frog the size of a pea can make a call loud enough for researchers to find it! Amazing!