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Smallest Vertebrate Yet Discovered: The Flea Toad From Brazil is Tiny, and Scientists Want to Know What Other Secrets Small Animals Hold

ByEditor

Feb 13, 2024
The smallest vertebrate in the world could be the Brazilian flea toad

Discovered in Brazil, the flea toad, scientifically known as Brachycephalus pulex, may be the world’s smallest vertebrate. This tiny amphibian was first described by scientists in 2011 and is smaller in size compared to the previous record holder for the world’s smallest vertebrate. The flea toad has been seen perched on a Brazilian real coin, which has a diameter of 27 millimeters.

Despite its small size and discovery in 2011, only a limited number of flea toad specimens have been collected from its habitat on forested hilltops in southern Bahia, Brazil. In order to verify the species’ maturity and sex, the gonads of the frogs were examined. It was found that only males have vocal slits.

Adult male B. pulex frogs are slightly over 7 millimeters long, smaller than the females, making them smaller than the previously known smallest amphibian, the Paedophryne amauensis frog from Papua New Guinea. The findings have led experts to believe that the flea toad may be the smallest extant frog in the world.

The study also highlighted how small the flea toads can get compared to other mini frogs, with the smallest specimen in the study being only 6.45 millimeters long. At such small scales, frogs tend to develop unusual anatomical quirks, such as losing toes or having underdeveloped ears.

The researchers also suggested that there may be even smaller vertebrates yet to be discovered, leading to the possibility of the next record-holder being another small frog or perhaps a parasitic male of a deep-sea anglerfish.

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