A new species of frog resembling a stone has just been discovered in northern Vietnam. The tiny frog measures only 2-5cm and lives in the rugged limestone hills of northern Vietnam. The Stone Leaf-litter Frog represents just a tiny fraction of the unknown biodiversity from the imperilled forests of Southeast Asia.
First discovered by scientists during joint-expeditions in northern Vietnam in 2013, the tiny frog stuck out as a possible new species because of its stone-like appearance and high-pitched, fast-paced advertisement call. However, it wasn’t until detailed comparisons had been made between this species and closely related frogs that its status as an undescribed species was confirmed.
The new frog, the Stone Leaf-litter Frog (Leptolalax petrops), was named for its stone-like appearance, but also because of the rugged limestone karst habitat in which the species was found. Both looking like and living amongst stone is likely what enabled this frog to remain undetected until now. The rugged terrain of jagged limestone boulders covered in lush green vegetation certainly made the surveys a challenge!
This is an important discovery because, despite being completely new to science, the Stone Leaf-litter Frog is already thought to be under threat. The forests of northern Vietnam that this species, and many others, rely on are fast disappearing. So much remains a mystery about this frog; nothing is known about its tadpoles, and less than 50 adults have ever been recorded. It’s so important that this living pebble is protected from joining the growing list of species that we lose before we even know that much about them.
Dr Jodi Rowley, Curator of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Biology, AMRI & UNSW Sydney
Timothy Cutajar, Research Assistant, AMRI
Rowley, J.J.L., Dau, V.Q., Hoang, H.D., Le, D.T.T., Cutajar, T.P. & Nguyen, T.T. (2017). A new species of Leptolalax (Anura: Megophryidae) from northern Vietnam. Zootaxa. 4243, 544-564.