Continued from page 1

Since they couldn’t locate the noise-maker, they snatched up some habitat, expecting to find a six-legger in it.

“We found it by grabbing a whole handful of leaf litter and putting it into a clear plastic bag and very, very slowly going through that litter leaf by leaf by leaf until we saw that small frog hop off one of those leaves,” he said.

Getting photos took some effort _ the frogs can leap 30 times their own length. After hopping around for a bit, they settled down long enough for a close-up or two, Austin said.

Their expedition, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, later turned up another new species of tiny frog, found farther west along the island’s coast. The other is closely related, but a millimeter or so larger, and it had a different call.

Austin estimated that they found 20 previously unknown species in New Guinea, which is such a hotspot of diversity that scientists figure they’ve described only about six-tenths of all the species living there.

Maurice Kottelat, a Swiss scientist who found the tiny carp called Paedocypris progenetica, wrote in an email that it’s hard to compare frogs and fish, because they’re measured differently: frogs from nose-tip to the excretory vent, and fish from nose to tail.

“It is not so interesting to know which is really the smallest. Tomorrow will bring another smallest anyway,” he wrote.

He concluded a long email, “I have a great concern. It is not when will we discover the next smallest, but whether habitats where to discover them will still be there. Or how long will the habitats survive.

“Since the discovery of Paedocypris most of the fragile peat swamps that it inhabits have been destroyed.”

___

Online:

AP interactive - http://hosted.ap.org/interactives/2012/tiny-frog/