Feeds

Tiny frog claimed as smallest vertebrate ever

Mine's smaller, yells irate ichthyologist*

High performance access to file storage

Boffins have found what they believe to be the world's smallest vertebrate. The tiny amphibian was discovered when scientists grabbed some leaves from the forest floor in Papua New Guinea and shoved them in a plastic bag.

With an average body size of 7.7mm (0.27 inches), the translucent nano-frogs sit easily on a US dime (which has a diameter of nearly 18mm, making it similar in size to the UK five pence coin).

Frog on dime, credit Rittmeyer et al, journal PlosONE

While researching frog cries in the rainforest, researchers Christopher Austin and Eric Rittmeyer identified the newcomer's tiny insect-like cries coming from the ground, and after trying to find the frog in the leaves, became frustrated and jammed the whole lot in a plastic bag:

"It was night, these things are incredibly small; so what we did after several frustrating attempts was to grab a whole handful of leaf litter and throw it inside a clear plastic bag. When we did so, we saw these incredibly tiny frogs hopping around," research leader Chris Austin from Louisiana State University told the BBC.

The discovery of the froglet, named Paedophryne amauensis brings the title of smallest vertebrate back to the frogs. It had previously been held by an Indonesian swamp-dwelling fish, the Paedocypris progenetica, measuring 7.9 to 10.3mm in length.

The researching scientists say that the breadth and limits on vertebrate size have been of great interest to biologists due to the functional and physiological constraints associated with extreme body size Adaptions that make this frog work biomechanically at its tiny size include the shortening of its fingers and toes to "vestigial nubs" and the simplification of its skull.

Frog xray, credit Rittmeyer et al, journal PlosONE

Tiny frogs are particularly susceptible to drying out, because of their high surface area to volume ratio, so scientists believe they can only survive in wet forest litter in tropical zones. Where normal frogs eat normal insects, tiny frogs eat tiny insects. ®

* An ichthyologist has disputed that the frog is genuinely the smallest vertebrate, telling the Associated Press that the males of a species of deep-sea anglerfish should take the tiny crown. The males of this species are a tiny 5mm, but the fact that they don't have stomachs and live as parasites on the backs of 50mm females has led some scientists to discount their existence as separate creatures.

Ecological Guild Evolution and the Discovery of the World's Smallest Vertebrate, co-authored by Eric N Rittmeyer, Allen Allison, Michael C Gründler, Derrick K Thompson, Christopher C Austin, was published on 11 January, 2012 in PloSONE

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.