Biologists Discover New Species of Glowing Pumpkin Toadlet

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The new species of toadlet, Brachycephalus rotenbergae, opens its mouth in a defensive posture. (Edelcio Muscat) Pumpkin toadlets look exactly like what their name suggests. Less than half an inch-long, these tiny, orange frogs hop around the sweltering forests along Brazil’s Atlantic coast. But how many species of these frogs are there? The question isn’t just important to biology, but for conservationists seeking to preserve unique rainforest amphibians. To researchers, pumpkin toadlets belong to the genus Brachycephalus . Determining how many Brachycephalus species exist, however, isn’t easy. As many as 36 have been named, but researchers sometimes disagree on which species are valid or which species a particular population of frogs should be assigned to. Different populations of these frogs look very similar to each other, not to mention that their genetic makeup only varies slightly. No one line of evidence can distinguish different pumpkin toadlet species from each other. Instead, researchers have to use an integrated approach that involves genes, gross anatomy and natural history, looking at everything from frog skeletons to their songs. That’s what led Universidade Estadual Paulista herpetologist Ivan Nunes and colleagues to name the tiny Brachycephalus rotenbergae as a new species in PLOS ONE […]

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