Monday, August 8, 2011

No, Really, That’s It

A few weeks ago I wrote about the rediscovery of a lost rainbow toad in the mountains of Borneo. Here’s another magical amphibian from that fertile haven, discovered about a year ago. Microhyla nepenthicola (a name that seems far too long for a creature this small) grows to only the size of a pea. Which explains why its existence had been overlooked until now. Scientists were only able to find it by tuning in their ears, listening carefully for the frog’s distinctive call. Discovery News has a nice description of their twilight song: 

The frogs normally start singing around dusk, making a series of harsh rasping notes that last for a few minutes, followed by brief intervals of silence. This "amphibian symphony" goes on from sundown until peaking in early evening.

Funnily enough like the rainbow toad this was another case of rediscovery – the frogs had been found before, but were always assumed to have been juveniles of larger cousins. Maybe there’s another principle of discovery here: sometimes listening is better than (over)-looking. And sometimes cool things really do come in ultra-small packages.

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