A team of researchers have identified seven new tiny and colorful frog species in the genus Brachycephalus.
All of the species live in cloud forests or on nearby mountaintops in areas of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, PeerJ reported. The frog family holds some of the smallest-known terrestrial vertebrates, and their bright colors suggest their skin hold the highly potent neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin. The findings come from five years of exploration in mountainous areas of Brazil.
"Although getting to many of the field sites is exhausting, there was always the feeling of anticipation and curiosity about what new species could look like," said Marcio Pie, a professor at the Universidade Federal do Paraná, who led the project.
rachycephalus diversity has remained largely unstudied because most species within the genus is highly endemic to remote and hard-to-reach habitats.
"This is only the beginning, especially given the fact that we have already found additional species that we are in the process of formally describing," said Luiz Ribeiro, a research associate to the Mater Natura Institute for Environmental Studies.
The researchers are concerned the same factors that cause the tiny frogs to remain exclusive to their habitats could also lead to their extinction. Cloud forests are extremely vulnerable to climate change, and if these habitats are damaged it could put the frog species in grave danger. This suggests it is necessary to protect these vital habitats and potentially even raise the frogs in captivity if we wish to protect them.