A diminutive species of frog, small enough to make a dime look like a hot tub, recently claimed the title of world’s smallest vertebrate.
A study published in PLos ONE claims that a species of frog known as Paedophryne amauensis is the world’s smallest animal with a spine. Only about 7.7 mm long at adulthood, Louisiana State University herpetologist and environmental biologist Christopher Austin had to use an incredibly powerful zoom lens just to photograph and describe the tiny frogs. Getting Paedophryne amauensis to sit still for the photos was even more difficult, as they can leap 30 times their own length.
The claim has been challenged by University of Washington ichthyologist Theodore Pietsch, who measured the mail anglerfish that claimed the title of world’s smallest vertebrate in 2006. The male anglerfish, which lives as a parasite on the body of the much larger female, can be as small as 5.7 mm. But Austin claims that the frog wins when average species size is compared.
Austin says that study, besides being generally cool, helps to identify ecological similarities among the most diminutive frog species. Their unique size suggests that the independent origins of minute frogs are not merely evolutionary outliers, but represent a previously undocumented ecological guild found in moist leaf litter of tropical wet-forests.
Top Image: AP Photo/Louisiana State University, Christopher Austin
Middle Image: Louisiana State University, Christopher Austin