Scientists from Queensland Museum have announced the newly discovered and deliciously named chocolate frog. This adorable creature lives in hot, swampy areas of New Guinea, according to a paper published recently in the Australian Journal of Zoology.
Officially, the frog is called Litoria mira. Mira is Latin for surprised, which is how scientists felt when they identified the amphibian. “What’s a little surprising about this discovery is that the well-known and common green tree frog of Australia has a long-overlooked relative living in the lowland rainforests of New Guinea,” said Paul Oliver, the paper’s lead author, who works for both the Queensland Museum and Griffith University. “The closest known relative of Litoria mira is the Australian green tree frog. The two species look similar except one is usually green, while the new species usually has a lovely chocolate coloring.”
Why haven’t Australian scientists encountered this frog before? Probably because the hot, sticky swamps of New Guinea, buzzing with mosquitos and snapping with crocodile jaws, tend to discourage exploration.
Taxonomy is the branch of science responsible for classifying organisms. According to Queensland Museum CEO Jim Thompson, taxonomy is important if you want to understand the planet’s biodiversity. “The work of a taxonomist is very similar to a detective,” he said. “They seek to find out more about the animal and plant species of the world often using cutting edge genetic technologies to unlock new information.”
The researchers suspect chocolate frogs may be widespread in New Guinea. Certainly New Guinea, Earth’s second largest island, abounds in frog life. Many are as tiny as 15 millimeters, which is just under 3/5 of an inch. The Arfak River frog grows to more than 6 inches long. Because large areas of the country have not been explored by scientists, it’s likely more species are living under the radar, undetected and unclassified.
Photography by Stephen J. Richards via Australian Journal of Zoology