National Geographic News
 Picture of a frog that's so small, it's the world's tiniest vertebrate
Dwarfed by a dime, Paedophryne amauensis inhabits New Guinean rain forests.

Photograph courtesy Christopher Austin, Louisiana State University

Christine Dell'Amore

National Geographic News

Published January 11, 2012

The world's smallest known vertebrate is a frog the size of a housefly, a new study says.

At an average of 7.7 millimeters long, the newfound Paedophryne amauensis is a hair smaller than the previous record holder, the Southeast Asian fish species Paedocypris progenetica, whose females measure about 7.9 millimeters.

During recent field surveys in southern Papua New Guinea, scientists found P. amauensis and  another new species of tiny frog, Paedophryne swiftorum, which measures about 8.6 millimeters.

"I think it's amazing that they're continuing to find smaller and smaller frogs," said Robin Moore, an amphibian expert with Conservation International, who was not involved in the study.

(Related: "Smallest Frogs Found—Each Tinier Than an M&M.")

It's obvious "they're adapting to fill a niche that nothing else is filling," he said.

Indeed, the frogs likely evolved their tiny sizes to eat tiny invertebrates, such as mites, that are ignored by bigger predators, said study co-author Christopher Austin, a biologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Tiny Frogs Hard to Catch

Discovered in 2010 but announced on Wednesday, all the species of the Paedophyrne genus are tiny and seem to live solely amid leaf litter on New Guinea's rain forest floor.

Scientists locate the teensy animals by listening for their calls and trying to zero in on the sources of the sounds—no mean feat, since the high pitch of the calls make their sources especially hard for human hearing to locate.

Austin and graduate student Eric Rittmeyer tried four times to find the frogs before exasperatedly grabbing a big handful of leaf litter and putting it in a plastic bag.

The scientists then combed through the contents until "eventually we saw this tiny thing hop off one of the leaves," Austin said.

The frogs are so small it's hard to see their earth-colored skin patterns with the naked eye, so Austin took pictures and then zoomed in, using a digital camera like a microscope.

But photographing the amphibians was just as challenging as finding them. When Austin brought the camera to his eye, the subject would often already be gone.

The new frogs are "incredibly good jumpers—they can jump 30 times [longer] than their body size," said Austin, whose study was published January 11 in the journal PLoS ONE.

New Guinea Minis Not Alone

As part of the research, Austin and colleagues also did a global genetic comparison of tiny frogs.

The team discovered that small frogs have evolved independently 11 times around the world, and almost exclusively in tropical rain forests, where the amphibians' skins won't dry out and food is plentiful.

(See related pictures: "Pea-Size Frog Found—Among World's Smallest.")

As the study says, "minute frogs are not mere oddities, but represent a previously unrecognized ecological guild."

catherine Jones
catherine Jones

this article is used as Chinese students‘ reading comprehension。

S***,it’s difficult。

Shahzad Ahmed
Shahzad Ahmed

these species are the  mind blowing creation of Allah.

Sophie Humphrey
Sophie Humphrey

I found a smaller frog infact there are a lot of these tiny frogs around my house I compared one to a dime too and they were smaller than that frog


Popular Stories

  • 'Extinct' Bird Rediscovered in Myanmar

    'Extinct' Bird Rediscovered in Myanmar

    The Myanmar Jerdon's babbler was thought to have gone the way of the dodo—until scientists stumbled across it during a 2014 expedition.

  • Lost City Found in Honduras

    Lost City Found in Honduras

    A joint Honduran-American expedition has confirmed the presence of extensive pre-Columbian ruins in Mosquitia in eastern Honduras, a region rumored to contain ruins of a lost "White City" or "City of the Monkey God."

  • Astronomers Find a Galaxy That Shouldn't Exist

    Astronomers Find a Galaxy That Shouldn't Exist

    Small, young galaxies should be free of interstellar dust, but an object called A1689-zD1 is breaking all the rules.

The Future of Food

  • Why Food Matters

    Why Food Matters

    How do we feed nine billion people by 2050, and how do we do so sustainably?

  • Download: Free iPad App

    Download: Free iPad App

    We've made our magazine's best stories about the future of food available in a free iPad app.

See more food news, photos, and videos »