Saturday, August 28, 2010


I have always been enchanted by miniature things, but I didn't know this enchantment extends to amphibians! Look at these tiny frogs! As of this month, a new member of the more than 400 species of microhylids has been recognized. The Microhyla nepenthicola (4th image) is the smallest frog in the Old World. It is found in and around the pitcher plant in Borneo. The eggs are deposited on the sides of the pitcher, and the tadpoles grow in the liquid pooled inside the plant. Dr. Indraneil Das describes the discovery: "We had just completed our field work at a nearby pond, monitoring the local amphibians breeding there with our students from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. My colleague from Hamburg, Alex Haas, and I were looking forward to returning to our chalet (and a cooked meal), when we heard an unfamiliar call (listen here). Looking down, we didn’t see much. Only after lying down flat on the ground could we see the tiniest frog imaginable! It took us a good 30 minutes to catch the first of several specimens we were to eventually acquire." Museum specimens of the pea-sized frogs had been collected more than 100 years ago, but were assumed to be juveniles of other species. The discovery is part of Conservation International's campaign to catalog the world's lost frogs.

Microhylids can be found all over the globe, including Africa, Malaysia, Australia, North America, and South America, and have great names like the white-browed whistle frog (2nd image), the sticky frog, the fire walking frog, the inelegant frog, the plaintive rain frog, the tomato frog, and many, many more. The narrowmouth toad above (1st image) was photographed in the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi. Some microhylids are arboreal and some are terrestrial (here's one on the forest floor). Many are under 1.5cm in length. One species (3rd image) makes its home in Asian elephant poop. The Australian variety bypasses the tadpole stage and goes from egg to frog, so it never has to come down from the trees.

When my sister and I were growing up, my Mom - a native New Englander - introduced us to peepers. These tiny but loud tree frogs do not qualify as microhylids, but check out this baby!

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