26 August 2010

Pea-sized frog the smallest in Asia

Agence France-Presse
Asia's tiniest frog, a creature the size of a pea, has been discovered in a national park in Malaysia's Sarawak state on Borneo island, researchers announced.
Microhyla nepenthicola

Credit: Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation/Indraneil Das

Microhyla nepenthicola

Credit: Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation/Indraneil Das

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia’s tiniest frog, a creature the size of a pea, has been discovered in a national park in Malaysia’s Sarawak state on Borneo island, researchers announced.

Herpetologist Indraneil Das said he and Hamburg University colleague Alexander Haas discovered the orange-and-red frog when returning from a field trip at the Kubah National Park in 2004.

They finally announced their discovery after Zootaxa published their findings. “We heard the calls of this frog and we knew the calls of all frogs in the area and this was different,” said Das.

Tiniest in Asia, Africa and Europe

“At first we couldn’t see it but eventually we found it and I had to trap the frog in one of my baby son’s clean white diapers in order to really see what it looked like, it was so tiny.”

The frog measures just 3.0 millimetres when it metamorphoses from a tadpole, and grows to about 9.0 to 11.0 millimetres as an adult. It belongs to the Microhylid family of frogs, which are all under 15.0 millimetres in length.

“The frog is as small as the South American species (of miniature frogs) and is definitely the tiniest in Asia, Africa and Europe,” Das said.

Named after miniature plant

It was named Microhyla nepenthicola after the Nepenthes ampullaria, a miniature pitcher plant in which it lives.

Das said the plant lives off decomposing organic matter that collects within it and the frog uses this as a habitat, laying its eggs in the pitcher. When the tadpoles hatch, they live in the gathered liquid until they mature.

“This just shows how much more there is left to discover in the jungles of Borneo, it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said the scientist, head of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

Searching for lost amphibians

Sarawak and neighbouring Sabah states make up Malaysia’s half of Borneo island, which is shared with Indonesia.

Das said he will be leading a team into the jungles of Indonesia and Malaysia next month to search for a supposedly extinct toad last seen in 1922, as part of a global project to rediscover 100 species of “lost” amphibians.

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