German and Panamanian scientists have discovered a new species of golden frog in the highlands of Central America. The tiny, bright yellow creature releases a pigmented substance from its skin when threatened.
Despite its distinctive color, it was not the appearance of the frog - Diasporus citrinobapheus - that first attracted the attention of the research team.
They heard an unusual sound - produced by males of the species - while retracing known populations of frog and salamander types in western Panama's Cordillera Central region.
"The call of this type of frog distinguishes itself strongly from other frogs. We then had the suspicion that we had found a new type here," said biologist Andreas Hertz, from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt.
"That said, it really wasn't very easy to locate this tiny creature in the thick rainforest, let alone to catch it," Hertz was quoted as saying on the institute's own website.
Species stands out from the crowd
The frog's coloration, bright yellow but sometimes orange, differs from that of animals of the same family grouping that live in the region. But when the team finally did get to look at the frogs more closely, another distinctive property became apparent.
"When we touched the animal, it colored our fingers yellow," said Hertz. "However, we cannot say what significance this has."
The substance released by the frog - whose species-specific Latin name means "yellow dyer" - appears to have no toxic components, and there is a possibility that it serves no purpose. However, it could act as a warning sign for the tiny animal, which measures just two centimeters in length.
During the study, the researchers also detected the presence of 18 out of 33 endangered species of amphibian that are known to live in the area.
Author: Richard Connor
Editor: Nancy Isenson