World’s Smallest Frogs!

I think Xmas is beginning to corrupt even the most die-hard herpetologists.

Cuteness is everywhere. Even the pages of this blog are not immune. [1]

So it was with a sick fascination that I caught this title in the otherwise non-cute-infected site, ScienceDaily.com…

World’s Smallest Frogs Discovered in New Guinea!

[Paedophryne dekot (A) and (B), and P. verrucosa (C), and (D), shown several times their actual size]

The article states, “Field work… has found the world’s smallest frogs in southeastern New Guinea. This also makes them the world’s smallest tetrapods (non-fish vertebrates). The frogs belong to the genus Paedophryne, all of whose species are extremely small, with adults of the two new species – named Paedophryne dekot andPaedophryne verrucosa – only 8-9 mm in length.”  The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

By the way… 9 mm in length is a bit less than three-eighths of an inch to you pre-metric types out there.

The genus still represents the most miniaturized group of tetrapods in the world.

So, the question is… what’s the deal with the frogs being so tiny??

Researcher Fred Kraus from Bishop Museum, Honolulu, author of the study, explains it all for us.

“Miniaturization occurs in many frog genera around the world,” said the author, “but New Guinea seems particularly well represented, with species in seven genera exhibiting the phenomenon. Although most frog genera have only a few diminutive representatives mixed among larger relatives, Paedophryne is unique in that all species are minute.”

The four known species all inhabit small ranges in the mountains of southeastern New Guinea or adjacent, offshore islands. Their closest relatives remain unclear.

(Paedophryne dekot)

Another quirk of the puny Paedophryne is their more-than-usually tiny fingers and toes… so tiny, in fact, that it doesn’t really allow them to climb well. All miniature members of this genus inhabit leaf litter and the teensy tootsies could be a corollary of the reduced body size required to living in leaf litter and moss. Small frogs often inhabit this kind of environment and may reflect the frogs’ exploitation of novel food sources in that habitat.

Minuscule body size also has another side effect. Unlike regular frogs that lay entire strings and cords of eggs, these diminutive darlings carry only two eggs. It’s not yet known whether both eggs are laid simultaneously or at staged intervals.

Well, there you have it, my little geeks and nerdlings! Your semi-regular doze of cute!

___________________________________________________________

[1] Witness Monday’s article on cute orphan sloths!

Original source:
Kraus F (2011) At the lower size limit for tetrapods, two new species of the miniaturized frog genus Paedophryne (Anura, Microhylidae). ZooKeys 154: 71–88. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.154.1963

References:
Kraus, F. (2010) New genus of diminutive microhylid frogs from Papua New Guinea. ZooKeys 48 (2010) : 39-59. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.48.446

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