Indraneil Das/Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation

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ScienceShot: The Smallest Frog in the Old World

The smallest frog on three continents has a loud voice, and that’s the only way scientists were able to find it. Starting at dusk, the males emit a chorus of harsh, raspy calls that peak between 6:45 and 9 PM. Researchers report today in Zootaxa that they discovered the pea-sized amphibians on the side of the Gunung Serapi mountain in Borneo, chirping amid the tiny Nepenthes pitcher plants they call home. Named Microhyla nepenthicola, after the plants, the male frogs measure only 10.6 to 12.8 mm long, making them the tiniest frogs in Europe, Asia, and Africa (the females are almost twice as long). The amphibians’ high surface-to-volume ratio means that they lose water quickly, so they do most of their mating and eating near the moist pitcher plants. They also have a shrunken first finger and less webbing on their feet than typical frogs, probably to better navigate the plants’ waxy surfaces. They’re not the world’s smallest frog, however: That record is currently held by two 9.8-mm-long amphibians in the New World, the gold frog in Brazil and the Monte Iberia dwarf frog in Cuba.

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