Tiny chocolate frog discovered by scientists

Tiny chocolate frog discovered by scientists

Scientists who followed a unique beeping sound, have discovered a new species of tiny chocolate frog. The small frog measuring no more than one to two centimetres in size was found in the Amazon.

Researchers have called the dark brown new species Synapturanus danta, after the Tapir with whom it shares a similar tapered elephant trunk style nose.

Although the frog has been known to locals for millennia, the tiny burrowing frog had eluded biologists until now. Local guides led the researchers to peat areas densely covered in nutrient rich decaying material, where they set up camp overnight as that it when then the tiny frogs are most active.

The researchers waited patiently for three nights hoping to find the frog, thinking there will be plenty out at night. However none appeared, so they decided to dig by hand to see what they could find and sure enough they found the first specimen.

Dr Michelle Thompson, Researcher and Ecologist at the Field Museum of Nature History, said, “These frogs are really hard to find, and that leads to them being understudied.

“We now think that their presence could indicate healthy peat lands in Peru’s Putumayo Basin, an area where there is very little deforestation.”

She continued saying: “It’s an example of the Amazon’s hidden diversity, and it’s important to document it to understand how important the ecosystem functions.

“It looks like a caricature of a tapir, because it has a big blobby body with this tiny little pointy head.

“The frogs are tiny, about the size of a quarter, they’re brown, they’re underground, and they’re quick.

“You know these little frogs are somewhere underground, but you just don’t see them hopping around.

“We could hear them underground, going beep-beep-beep, and we’d stop, turn off our lights, and dig around, and then listen for it again.

“After a few hours, one hopped out of his little burrow, and we were screaming, ‘Somebody grab it.’”

Dr Germán Chávez, a researcher at Peru’s Institute of Herpetology, said, “Frogs of this genus are spread throughout the Amazon, but since they live underground and can’t get very far by digging, the ranges each species is distributed in are fairly small.

“Since we found this new species in Amazon peat land, it wouldn’t be strange for it to be restricted to this environment.

“Its body shape and general look seems to be adapted to the soft soil of the peat land, rather than the robust and wider shape of species in other environments.

“Our genetic analyses show this new species belongs to a group that evolved in the western Amazon, where the influence of prehistoric landscapes like the Pebas Lake might have created different wetlands, which originated the diversity we see in Synapturanus today.

“Beside the important role of this new species in the food chain of its habitat, we believe that it could be an indicator of healthy peat lands.”

Scientists believe having discovered the tiny chocolate frog, that they will find many more similar species as more and more local areas are researched.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.