World's Smallest Frog Discovered

A frog that is no larger than the size of a fingernail has been declared by scientists as the world's smallest vertebrate species, edging out a fish that took the title in 2006.

In an article that was published Wednesday, in the science journal PLoS One, researchers named Paedophryne amauensis as the smallest animal in the world with a spine.

Steven J. Beaupre, a University of Arkansas scientist and president-elect of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, explained that many vertebrate species have males and females of varying sizes, "so it is reasonable that the world's smallest vertebrate may end up being either the males or the females of some specific fish or amphibian species."

Beaupre said he was not focused on the "tiniest" title the frog earned rather he felt the frogs themselves were a more important discovery.

"The discovery of two new frog species comes as great news against the background of more prevalent accounts of tropical amphibian extinction," he wrote in an email.

The adult frogs are about three-tenths of an inch long, and about a millimeter smaller than a carp which is found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The frogs are so small that Louisiana State University herpetologist and environmental biologist Christopher Austin had to enlarge close-up photos just to describe them.

Austin discovered the tiny frogs, along with another small frog species, in August 2009 while on a trip to Papua New Guinea to study the extreme diversity of the island's wildlife. He said he knew about other small species but felt that average species size made more sense for comparison.

While Austin was excited with the discovery he still had reservations when thinking about the future, "I have a great concern. It is not when will we discover the next smallest, but whether habitats where to discover them will still be there. Or how long will the habitats survive.”