Tiny New Species of Poisonous Frog Discovered

Cesar Jaramillo, STRI. The specimen on which a new species of frog has been based.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has announced the discovery of a new species of poison dart frog.

Poison dart frogs get their name from their use by indigenous rainforest peoples to turn blowgun darts into deadly weapons. While it is not known whether the newly discovered species was ever used in this way, it is sufficiently closely related to earn the monicker. Moreover, its skin chemicals appear potent enough that darts rubbed on it could be lethal. The frogs' poisons appear to be produced by concentrating  toxins from their insect food sources.

Andinobates geminisae has been classified as a member of a genus only established in 2011 to cover 12 species, but expanded to 14 with the latest description in Zootaxa. The latest member has been named after Geminis Vargas, the wife of one of the co-authors, Marcos Ponce, “For her unconditional support of his studies of Panamanian herpetology.” 

So far, A geminisae is only known from a small area of Colón Province, Panama. If its range does not extend further it likely justifies an endangered rating. The authors recommend “immediate conservation plans to preserve this species”.

Identification as a new entry in the tree of life was delayed because a similar species, Oophaga pumilio, comes in a variety of colours, and it was thought the orange frog might just be a new variety. However,  A geminisae is smaller than O pumilio or any other similar species and has uniformly orange skin. Genetic testing has confirmed its status.

Perhaps the new frog's most distinctive feature is the mating call, a recording of which is available on AmphibiaWeb.org.

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