Good news! Scientists have discovered three tiny and unbelievably cute species of salamander in mountain forests of Oaxaca, Mexico. The bad news is, these little’uns are already headed for extinction.
Decades of study by an international team of scientists has found and described three new salamanders of the genus Thorius – making them the smallest tailed tetrapods known to science. This special trio was confirmed to be all new species by their appearance, bone structure, and differences in their DNA sequences. The study, recently published in the journal PeerJ, also redescribed dozens of other tiny matchstick-like salamanders from the genus.
The three newbies have been named Thorius pinicola (meaning "Pine-dwelling Minute Salamander"), Thorius longicaudus ("Long-tailed Minute Salamander", which you can see below), and Thorius tlaxiacus (“Heroic Minute Salamander”). Each is an average of 25.7 millimeters, 25.5 millimeters, and 28 millimeters long, respectively – roughly the size of a 25 cents coin across. Their skulls are all just around 4.5 millimeters in length.
Populations of genus Thorius were once thriving. However, within the past 30 to 35 years, it’s hard to find a living Thorius in the wild. In fact, almost all 30 of the known species are classified as endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It’s looking more and more likely that the whole genus will go extinct within 50 years, including these newly discovered species.
The newly discovered Thorius longicaudus, aka the Long-tailed Minute Salamander. Mario García-París