Hiding on the forest floor in Mexico, scientists have discovered six new species of tiny frogs the size of thumbnails. At only half an inch long, a species (Craugastor candelariensis) is now considered the smallest frog in Mexico.
Miniature amphibians have gone unnoticed by researchers due to their small size, neutral brown coloration, and similarity to extant species, a statement Explain. Details about the frogs were published last month in Herpetological monographs.
The six amphibians were classified in the Craugastor gender. They are known as direct-developing frogs, which means they skip the tadpole stage and hatch as fully formed adults, reports Liam James for the Independent. The frogs have yet to witness the hatching, but researchers suspect they are less than 10 millimeters, or 0.4 inches long, Live Science“Reports Mindy Weisberger.
“Their way of life is quite fascinating,” study author Tom Jameson, a conservation biologist at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement. “These frogs live in the dark, damp forest litter, which is like a secret world – we really don’t know what’s going on there. We don’t understand their behavior, how they socialize or how they raise.”
The researchers studied 500 frog specimens, originally found in Mexico, from museum collections, by the Independent. The frogs have been marked as undefined species in the Craugastor gender. When one of the scientists compared the genetic data of the frogs, he found a pattern of several undescribed species. The discovery inspired the team to revisit the frogs for an updated classification, Live Science reports.
The team performed additional genetic analyzes on several species and built 3D digital models with CT scans. These techniques have allowed researchers to identify tiny differences between similar-looking frogs, for Live Science. After the analysis, the team confirmed that the new species was C. bitonium, C. candelariensis, C.cueyatl, C. polaclavus, C. portilloensisand C.rubinus.
The name C.cueyatl pays homage to the rich human history of the Valley of Mexico because cueyatl means frog in Nahuatl, the language spoken by the natives of the region where it was found, explains a press release.
The team also found differences in the shape of the skull, the formation of skeletal bones and the warts on the feet, Live Science reports.
The species’ small size puts them at the bottom of the food chain, serving delicious meals to birds, lizards, small mammals and other frogs. Chytridiomycosis, a deadly fungal infection, is wiping out frog populations around the world. Man-made factors also pose the greatest threat to the survival of frogs.
“The real threat to these frogs comes from habitat loss, climate change and disease,” Jameson said. Live Science.
Many mini frogs are only found in small areas, such as a single hill in Mexico, which makes them very vulnerable. For example, C.rubinus was named after the garnet mines near the hill where the amphibian resides. However, the expansion of the mine may endanger and wipe out the species, Jameson explains to the Independent.
Still, the team hopes the unique amphibians will survive. They have identified critical areas in Mexico where the species live and plan to work with NGOs and the Mexican government to protect the six new species, reports the Independent.