Herpetologists describe an elf frog from the elfin forests in southern Vietnam

May 19, 2017, Pensoft Publishers
Elfin forest on Langbian Plateau, southern Vietnam -- the habitat of the Elfin mountain toad. Credit: Nikolay A. Poyarkov Jr.

Deep in the foggy, moss-covered forests of Southern Vietnam, herpetologists uncovered one of the smallest species of horned mountain toads.

The name of the new amphibian (Ophryophryne elfina) derives from European mythology and translates to "elfish eyebrow toad". Despite being recently discovered, the is already considered to be endangered. Having remained hidden in the highlands of Langbian Plateau, it is now described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The unique species name "elfina" derives from the English word "elf". In German and Celtic folklore, elves are described as small, supernatural creatures usually dwelling deep in the forests of magical hills. The frogs were named after them primarily because of their small size of around 3 cm, which makes them the smallest known species of the genus - as well as their fascinating appearance - they have small horn-like projections above their eyes.

The unique habitat of the amphibians also inspired their species name. The Elfin toad lives in the highland wet subtropical evergreen . There it can only be found on mountain summits higher than 1800 m, or on the slopes of the eastern side of Langbian Plateau, where the rainfall is high because of the sea nearby. Both the rocks and the dwarf curbed trees are covered with a heavy layer of moss, whilst a thick misty fog is constantly lingering amongst the trees. This is why such wet mountain ecosystems are known as elfin forests.

The Elfin mountain toad is one of the three known in the genus Ophryophryne that inhabit Langbian Plateau. Curiously, all three of them share the same habitat, but can be easily distinguished by their advertisement calls resembling whistling birds.

The newly discovered Elfin mountain toad (Ophryophryne elfina) is in its natural habitat. Credit: Nikolay A. Poyarkov Jr.

The Langbian Plateau, southern Vietnam -- the habitat of the Elfin mountain toad. Credit: Nikolay A. Poyarkov Jr.

Explore further: New tiny arboreal toad species from India is just small enough for its own genus

More information: Nikolay A. Poyarkov Jr. et al. Molecular, morphological and acoustic assessment of the genus Ophryophryne (Anura, Megophryidae) from Langbian Plateau, southern Vietnam, with description of a new species, ZooKeys (2017). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.672.10624

Related Stories

World's smallest frogs discovered in New Guinea

December 12, 2011

Field work by researcher Fred Kraus from Bishop Museum, Honolulu has found the world's smallest frogs in southeastern New Guinea. This also makes them the world's smallest tetrapods (non-fish vertebrates). The frogs belong ...

A new toad from the 'warm valleys' of Peruvian Andes

January 17, 2014

A new species of toad was discovered hiding in the leaf litter of the Peruvian Yungas. The word is used widely by the locals to describe ecoregion of montane rainforests, and translates as "warm valley" in English. The new ...

Recommended for you

Fungus senses gravity using gene borrowed from bacteria

April 24, 2018

The pin mold fungus Phycomyces blakesleeanus forms a dense forest of vertically growing fruiting bodies, but how does it know which way is "up"? New research publishing 24 April in the open access journal PLOS Biology, from ...

Team discovers a new take on early evolution of photosynthesis

April 24, 2018

A team of scientists from Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences has begun re-thinking the evolutionary history of photochemical reaction centers (RCs). Their analysis was recently published online in Photosynthesis ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.