New frog trumps miniscule fish for title of 'world's smallest vertebrate'
How small can you be and still have a spine? Scientists are continually surprised by the answer. Researchers have discovered a new species of frog in Papua New Guinea that is smaller than many insects and dwarfed by a dime. The frog trumps the previously known smallest vertebrate—a tiny fish—by nearly 1 millimeter.
The smallest specimen of the new frog, named Paedophryne amauensis was just 7 millimeters (0.27 inches) long, the largest around 8 millimeters (0.31 inches). The previous record-holder was a fish called Paedocypris progenetica which ranged from 7.9 to 10.3 millimeters (0.31 to 0.4 inches). According to the paper, the frog genus Paedophryne (meaning 'child frog' in Ancient Greek) includes four of the world's top 10 tiniest frogs. The genus was first described in 2010.
On the other end of the spectrum, the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is world's biggest vertebrate.
"Little is understood about the functional constraints that come with extreme body size, whether large or small," Christopher Austin of Louisiana State University said in a press release, adding that, "it was particularly difficult to locate Paedophryne amauensis due to its diminutive size and the males' high pitched insect-like mating call. But it's a great find. New Guinea is a hotspot of biodiversity, and everything new we discover there adds another layer to our overall understanding of how biodiversity is generated and maintained."
Image credit: Rittmeyer EN et al. (2012) Ecological Guild Evolution and the Discovery of the World's Smallest Vertebrate. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29797.