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article imageMiniature new species of frog found in Malaysian Borneo

By Igor I. Solar     Aug 25, 2010 in Science
The pea-sized amphibian found living associated to little pitcher plants in the forests of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, is the smallest frog in the Old World and one of the world’s tiniest.
The discovery was published August 19 in the journal Zootaxa. Drs. Indraneil Das of University of Malaysia, Sarawak, and Alexander Haas of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation of the Museum of Hamburg, Germany, found the tiny frog near the edge of a road leading to the summit of the Gunung Serapi mountain in Sarawak’s Kubah National Park.
The researchers named the new species Microhyla nepenthicola after the plant on which the little amphibian is an obligated resident. Nepenthes ampullaria is one of many species of “pitcher” plant that grows in damp, shady forests in Southeast Asia. N. ampullaria has aerial stems and many small globular pitcher-like open ampules. The frogs deposit their eggs on the sides of the pitcher, and tadpoles grow in the liquid accumulated inside the plant.
Small pitcher plant Nepenthes ampullaria  obligated hábitat for the tiny frog Microhyla nepenthicol...
Small pitcher plant Nepenthes ampullaria, obligated hábitat for the tiny frog Microhyla nepenthicola (new species).
“I saw some specimens in museum collections that are over 100 years old. Scientists presumably thought they were juveniles of other species, but it turns out they are adults of this newly-discovered micro species,” said Dr. Das.
The adults of the new species are no larger than a pea ranging between 10.6 and 12.8 mm. Because of their size, finding them was a difficult task for the researchers. They were initially identified and tracked by the mating calls of the males. The singing regularly starts at dusk when the males gather in close proximity to the pitcher plants.
Amphibians are among the most threatened group of animals with about a third of the species in danger of extinction. They are important in the natural environment by helping to maintain healthy freshwater systems and controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops.
"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," said Conservation International's Dr. Robin Moore of IUCN's Amphibian Specialist Group.
Malaysian students recognize the environment in Kubah National Park  Sarawak  Malaysian Borneo.
Malaysian students recognize the environment in Kubah National Park, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.
For additional information, more pictures and to listen to the frog's calls, see the complete Conservation International Press Release here.
More about Frog, Amphibians, Malaysia, Toad
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