JUN 20, 2018 3:47 PM PDT

Meet these 99-million-year-old tiny frogs

Recently discovered amber from Myanmar is giving us new information on what life was like 99 million years ago. The amber, a tree resin known for preserving fossils, contains evidence of skin, scales, fur, feathers, and more – including four tiny frogs no longer than two centimeters in length that researchers named Electrorana limoa. Paleontologists think that the fossils date back to the end of the Age of the Dinosaurs and are excited at the prospect of delving into a glimpse of the world from so long ago when frogs and toads were evolving in rainforests.

Images of the frogs in amber. Photo: The Washington Post

Using microcomputed tomographic analysis, the researchers were able to determine the detailed three-dimensional anatomy of the four frog specimens. Dr. Lida Xing of China University of Geosciences in Beijing says that this discovery “provides direct evidence that frogs inhabited wet tropical forests before the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous." Given that the fossil record for early amphibians is lacking, to say the least, scientists are understandably excited about the find that Xing calls a “miracle”.

Though frogs evolved roughly 200 million years ago, the connection between wet forests and the amphibians was uncertain until now. As Dr. David Blackburn of the University of Florida explains it, “being small and living in a tropical forest makes the likelihood of ending up in the fossil record ‘pretty low’”. Now paleontologists have the evidence to solidify the evolutionary path of the amphibians and the connections shed more light on modern frogs and toads, as Electrorana has similarities to several current species such as fire-bellied toads and midwife toads.

The forest where the amber was found is Myanmar’s Kachin State, and frogs were only one of the exciting findings. The amber also shows plants, spiders, insects, and marine mollusks, and each discovery acts to build a more and more detailed picture of the past, such as who ate whom and where.

"The new frog species is a relevant piece of this exciting puzzle, a potential top predator of the fossil insects," said Dr Ricardo Perez-De-La Fuente, of the Oxford Museum of Natural History. The presence of the mollusks also suggests that the frogs lived in a humid, warm, tropical forest ecosystem with freshwater lakes.

Sources: Scientific Reports, BBC News

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Fixing the Ozone Layer Resulted in Other Environmental Pollution
MAY 15, 2020
Fixing the Ozone Layer Resulted in Other Environmental Pollution
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was enacted in 1987. A new study has revealed that the ...
MAY 18, 2020
Cancer
The threat of climate change extends to cancer progression
MAY 18, 2020
The threat of climate change extends to cancer progression
A study appearing in the American Cancer Society’s CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians argues that climate change ...
MAY 23, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Are Australia's caves growing?
MAY 23, 2020
Are Australia's caves growing?
Have you ever heard of a speleothem? Even if you haven’t you’ve probably heard of a stalactite or a stalagmi ...
JUN 14, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Why Are There So Few Black People in STEM?
JUN 14, 2020
Why Are There So Few Black People in STEM?
On June 10th, 2020, thousands of STEM scientists and organizations around the world went on strike to protest systemic r ...
JUL 06, 2020
Earth & The Environment
The story behind a soil
JUL 06, 2020
The story behind a soil
Soil scientist Karen Vaughan from the University of Wyoming knows how to classify a soil well. There’s a science t ...
JUL 11, 2020
Earth & The Environment
The disappearance of Australia's seagrass
JUL 11, 2020
The disappearance of Australia's seagrass
Australia is losing its seagrass. That’s according to a new report released by marine scientists at the Centre for ...
Loading Comments...