JUN 20, 2018 03:47 PM PDT

Meet these 99-million-year-old tiny frogs

3 1 151

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
APR 16, 2018
Earth & The Environment
APR 16, 2018
What logging does to your water
There are a lot of issues with deforestation. However, for some nations around the world, logging jobs provide stable sources of income that might otherwis
APR 23, 2018
Earth & The Environment
APR 23, 2018
Are grasslands on the decline?
Grasslands cover about a quarter of the world’s land and are the most agriculturally important biome. Though they have many names (prairies, pampas,
MAY 22, 2018
Space & Astronomy
MAY 22, 2018
SpaceX Sends NASA's GRACE-FO Mission Into Space
Rocket manufacturer Orbital ATK received the spotlight after launching a resupply mission for astronauts onboard the International Space Station on Monday,
JUN 11, 2018
Earth & The Environment
JUN 11, 2018
Updates from Guatemala's eruption
The recent devastation from Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego eruption last week has not ended for many families who are searching for the remains o
JUL 06, 2018
Earth & The Environment
JUL 06, 2018
A win for the environment: Scott Pruitt's resignation
We had all been wondering for a long time now how a self-acclaimed climate change denier could be in charge of the so-called Environmental Protection Agenc
JUL 20, 2018
Earth & The Environment
JUL 20, 2018
Our National Parks have an Air Pollution Problem
Climbing up the Grand Canyon, you can’t catch your breath. Likely, those extra slices of pizza all winter and skipped days at the gym are to blame &n
Loading Comments...