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Wikimedia/Rittmeyer EN, Allison A, Grundler MC, Thompson DK, Austin CC

The World’s Smallest Frog Can Fit on Your Fingernail [PHOTOS]

It's also the world's smallest invertebrate.

Meet the world's smallest frog: Paedophryne amauensis. Hidden in the forests of the Pacific Islands, this tiny creature is overturning long-held scientific theories about the way evolution works.

Not content with being just the smallest frog, Paedophryne amauensis also holds the title of the world's smallest vertebrate. Its Latin name meaning (somewhat inaccurately) "child toad," the frog measures just one-third of an inch long and could sit easily in the middle of a dime.

The creatures are so minuscule, in fact, that when they were discovered in 2009, photographs of them had to be significantly enlarged before they could be accurately described.

smallest frog Wikimedia/Rittmeyer EN, Allison A, Grundler MC, Thompson DK, Austin CC

They were first located in the forests of Papua New Guinea by a team of biologists led by Christopher Austin of Louisiana State University. It was the village of Amau near where they were found in the Central Province that gave them their name.

Not that finding them was anything like an easy task.

It wasn't only their diminutive size that made Paedophryne amauensis hard to locate.

smallest frog


Firstly, their black-brown coloring makes it remarkably easy for them to hide out in the soft, damp leaf litter of the forest floor. Secondly, the animals tend to be most active in the low light of dusk.

Added to this is the fact that their croaking isn't exactly like that of a bullfrog. The call of these tiny frogs is very high indeed — around 8,400 to 9,400 hertz. As Austin told the Guardian, "This frog has a call that doesn't sound like a frog at all. It sounds like an insect."

The team used sound triangulation to precisely locate the frog calls and then carefully removed samples of the leaf litter in which they hoped to find life. And, sure enough, they found a number of examples of Paedophryne amauensis. Taking care to contain the frogs — they're able to leap 30 times their own body length — the scientists photographed and recorded their find.

Paedophryne amauensis are born as "hoppers" — even smaller but fully formed versions of their adult selves.

Curiously, the frog seems to live its whole life on land without going through a tadpole stage as part of its development. According to Austin, this undermines the long-held belief that the evolution of extremely large or small life forms is always linked to the sea.

"It's a great find," he told the Guardian. "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."

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