by Jade Small

Three tiny frogs have been discovered in madagascar, even making up a new genus, Mini.

These super small vertebrates – some of the smallest in the world – measure between 8 and 14 millimeters. Mini mum being the smallest of all 3 and about the size of a staple. Mini mum could potentioally rival Paedophryne amauensis, from Papua New Guinea for smallest frog on record!

Paedophryne amauensis
Photo by Christopher Austin, Louisiana State University

The other two recently discovered frogs were named Mini scule, and Mini ature. Yes. you read that right. Those are their real names, officially documented in the journal PLOS One.

Photo by Dr Andolalao Rakotoarison

As reported by IFLScience, lead author and evolutionary biologist Mark Scherz said after searching databases, they realized the names had not been used yet.

“We searched all the databases we could find, and nobody seemed to have used the name before. From there, the puns just fell into place.”

“It takes a lot of practice and patience. You can spend an hour looking for a single calling male, only to fail to catch him in the end. Females you can only really find by chance,” Scherz told us. “Fortunately, they are often locally abundant, making things somewhat easier.”

Over 350 different frog species call Madagascar home, what makes finding these frogs so difficult is that they have actually independently evolved to be super duper tiny!

In an email press release, Mark said the challenges don’t end with finding the minute animals, they actually have to micro CT scan them to identify minute differences in the bones and even teeth to be 100% sure they are infact looking at a new species.

“When frogs evolve small body size, they start to look remarkably similar, so it is easy to underestimate how diverse they really are.”

You may be wondering why frogs are evolving their size, Scherz says:  “It’s not just in Madagascar, but also in South East Asia and South America, that tiny frogs are evolving again and again. There must be something adaptive to it, or at least, it must not be so disadvantageous that it gets erased by natural selection, very possibly it is related to the fact that they can explore more complicated habitats, getting away from predators and tapping into the resources that are too small for larger frogs to exploit.”

Photo by bySam Hyde Roberts

 

Photo by Dr Andolalao Rakotoarison

“It also means you can fit the same population size into a smaller area, Madagascar has an extremely high rate of deforestation – just taking a glance at Google Earth imagery makes it clear just how severe the deforestation in that area has been, and how much habitat has been lost.

That hasn’t stopped a few people saying that [Swedish botanist] Linnaeus must be turning in his grave, but on the other hand, Linnaeus also erected the genus Phallus, and if that isn’t humorous taxonomy, I don’t know what is.”

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