Scientists have discovered a new species of poison dart frog. It is so tiny that it can easily fit on a fingernail. Researchers have named it Andinobates geminisae. The specimen was first collected on February 21, 2011 in the headwaters of Rio Caño. Led by Andrew Crawford of the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, scientists have been working on it for well over three years.
Do hunters use the new frog species’ poison?
Findings of the study appeared in the journal ZooTaxa. Poison dart frogs are mostly found in Central and South America. They secrete toxins that rain forest hunters use in chemical weapons such as blowgun darts. The newly-discovered electric-orange amphibian measures just 12.7 millimeters. It’s quite mysterious because the frog has little resemblance to its closest genetic relatives in the regions. Scientists also analyzed its DNA.
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Its unique call and smooth skin differentiate it from other frogs in the region. Researchers are still trying to figure out how it came to look like this. Though hunters use poisons of other frogs in weapons, scientists believe it is unlikely that Andinobates geminisae‘s poison has ever been used in hunting. Crawford told National Geographic that they were still analyzing its poison.
The newfound frog is endangered
Though the frog had been spotted by scientists in the past, researchers were unclear whether it was a new species or just another variety of a similar species. They found that it cares for its young. Other poison dart frogs also share this trait. Poison dart frogs are among the endangered organisms. They are found only in a small area. And they are imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and the deadly chytrid fungus.
Authors of the study warned that the newfound frog was at risk from deforestation as well as pet trade collectors. They have outlined plans for protecting this species. The plan involves including A. geminisae in a captive breeding program that protects amphibians from habitat loss and diseases.