Scientists have discovered one of the world’s smallest ever amphibians – an elusive frog the size of a PEA.
At less than 13mm long, the mini frog can comfortably sit on the tip of a pencil and is nearly TEN TIMES smaller than the common grass frog found in Britain.
Experts have named the animal ‘Nepenthes Ampullaria’ after the type of pitcher plant it lives off on the Asian island of Borneo.
It was discovered by a group of scientists who are hunting for potentially extinct amphibians on the remote outcrop.
Their miniscule size meant finding the frogs was a daunting challenge. Scientists tracked them by their ‘call’ which starts at dusk.
Males gather around the pitcher plants where they call in a series of harsh rasping notes lasting for a few minutes with brief intervals of silence.
This ‘amphibian symphony’ goes on from sundown until peaking in the early hours of the evening.
Once the scientists found the frogs, they made them jump onto a piece of white cloth to be examined more closely.
The breakthrough find is part of a campaign organised by the Conservation International and IUCN’s Amphibians Specialist Group, where scientists are visiting 20 countries on five continents to understand the current amphibian crisis.
Amphibians are the most threatened group of animals with a third thought to be at risk of extinction and more than half of the 6,000 species declining in numbers.
They have been around for about 360 million years – over 100 million years longer than the first mammal and 200 million years before the first bird.
Dr Robin Moore, who has organized the search on behalf of IUCN’s Amphibian Specialist Group, said: ”Amphibians are quite sensitive to changes in their surroundings, so we hope the discovery of these miniature frogs will help us to understand what changes in the global environment are having an impact on these fascinating animals.”
Helen Meredith, conservationist at ZSL London Zoo, said: “For something so small to develop from egg to tadpole to froglet within a carnivorous plant that is perfectly adapted to trap its prey shows just how amazing and enchanting this species is.”
“With at least a third of amphibians at risk of extinction, I hope we can use this important discovery to keep amphibians in the public eye and learn further ways of protecting these fascinating creatures.”
At 12.8mm, the ‘Nepenthes Ampullaria’ is the smallest amphibian to be found in Asia, Europe or Africa with the title of world’s smallest going to the Brazilian Psyllophryne Didactyla. Better known as the Gold Frog, this South American amphibian is just 9.8mm long.