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Picture of the Day

Meet India's starry dwarf frog, lone member of newly discovered ancient lineage

The starry dwarf frog is an expert hider. Plunging into leaf litter at the slightest disturbance, it has successfully evaded attention for millions of years -- until now. The thumbnail-sized species was discovered in India's Western Ghats, one of the world's "hottest" biodiversity hotspots. Scientists have named the frog Astrobatrachus kurichiyana for its constellation-like markings and the indigenous people of Kurichiyarmala, the hill range where it was found. But A. kurichiyana is not only a new species to science. It's the sole member of an ancient lineage, a long branch on the frog tree of life that researchers have classified as a new subfamily, Astrobatrachinae. Dark brown with a bright orange underbelly and speckled with pale blue dots, the frog camouflages well in wet leaf litter, and only a few individuals have been found. Finding ancient lineages like Astrobatrachinae can help fill in in the region's distant biological past, but the starry dwarf frog maintains many mysteries of its own. Researchers still do not know its life cycle, the sound of its call or whether the species is threatened or endangered.

Visit Website | Image credit: K.P. Dinesh/Florida Museum of Natural History