Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paedophryne amauensis

Have you ever wondered what the smallest vertebrate in the world is? Well today is your lucky day to find out! The honor goes to a tiny, itty bitty little frog found in Papua New Guinea, Paedophryne amauensis!

Paedophryne amauensis
So how small is this wee Amphibian? Well... that picture there should tip you off- it's sitting on a US dime! You're seeing it right; P. amauensis measures only around 8mm, which is less than half the diameter of the ten cent coin.

The species is a very newly discovered one; it was first spotted in 2009 and published about just this month. It's no wonder that the species was hard to spot, as they live on the rainforest floor and blend in with all of the substrate and foliage. They also make calls that sound more like those of an insect than a frog!

P. amauensis is helping scientists to understand the limits of vertebrate size. Because there are so many anatomical features involved in being a member of the Chordata phylum, there is a lot that needs to be stuffed into an extra-tiny package. The frog has adapted for its smallness by having shorter fingers and toes and a simplified skull. Their small amount of surface area also means that they need to live in very wet areas so that they don't dry out. But, just like bigger frogs, they slurp up insects... albeit very tiny ones.

There has already been some controversy about the "smallest vertebrate title," as Ichthyologists are claiming that the crown should really go to the males of a species of Anglerfish. They are only 5mm long, but are lacking some vital organs and essentially live as parasites off of the much larger females. Herpetologists are countering that they are looking at a species average size, which would place the Anglerfish out of the running.

IUCN Status : Not Evaluated
Location : Papua New Guinea
Size : Length .27in (7.7m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Amphibia -- Order : Anura
Family : Microhylidae -- Genus : Paedophryne -- Species : P. amauensis

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