The genus Brachycephalus is commonly known as pumpkin toadlets. It is composed of tiny poisonous frogs that live in the forest leaf litter and are most active during daylight. They are endemic to the Atlantic Forest along the coast of Brazil.
According to the research article "Hidden by the name: A new fluorescent pumpkin toadlet from the Brachycephalus ephippium group (Anura: Brachycephalidae)" published in PLOS One, most Brachycephalus species can be seen in restricted lowlands or mountain areas where some of them occupy less than 100 hectares of area.
During the last decade, researchers have looked deeper into the diversification and biogeography of pumpkin toadlets wherein they found an increase of the tiny frogs and found 15 more Brachycephalus species. Currently, there are 36 described pumpkin toadlet species.
Recently, researchers found another species of Brachycephalus that researchers identify as a new fluorescent and highly poisonous pumpkin toadlet species.
New Pumpkin Toadlet With Glowing Bones
The new pumpkin toadlet is called B. rotenbergae, named after Elise Laura K. Rotenberg, the founder of the Brazilian NGO Projeto Danis, dedicated to the research and conservation of the Atlantic Forest. According to New Scientist, the new species of pumpkin toadlet is so small that it can fit on a thumbnail.
It was discovered in the south of Mantiqueira mountain range in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the home to a few dozen species of pumpkin toadlets. They have a similar color to other Brachycephalus species, which looks like a hearty, delicious pumpkin soup.
The team carried out an analysis of the tiny frog's size and shape, bones, genes, and even its frog song. The researchers note that it was tough to discover the new species because the brightest members of Brachycephalus look similar, both genetically and physically.
According to CNet's report, B. rotenbergae and other species of the genus have bones close to the surface of their fleshy skin that glows under fluorescent light.
The human eye cannot see these under normal light, but scientists think that the toadlets use this fluorescent characteristic as a visual cue to other toadlets in the forest or as a defense mechanism.
Jodi Rowley at the Australian Museum in Sydney said that the discovery of the new species of pumpkin toadlet underscores how much scientists need to learn about frog biodiversity.
The research article describes in detail the abundance of toadlets they encountered during their research, which is considered a rare win for a previously unknown species given that climate change has driven biodiversity loss across the world.
Fluorescence in Animals
Some species in the animal kingdom uses color and sometimes fluorescence as a "DO NOT EAT" sign. That might also apply to B. rotenbergae, especially to the birds and spiders that might feast on them.
Fluorescence is quite common among animals, with recent discoveries in the mammals in Australia that emit a glow under UV light. According to a previous report from Science Times, these animals include platypus, wombats, echidna, bandicoots, bilbies, possums, some bats, insects, frogs, fish, and fungi.
Even tardigrades also use fluorescence as a defense mechanism.
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