Tiny toad found in Australian desert

July 26, 2011 at 7:06 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, July 26 (UPI) -- A tiny frog species or "toadlet" has been observed in Western Australia in an area previously thought to support very few amphibians, researchers said.

Researchers from the Australian National University, the Western Australian Museum and the University of Western Australia used genetic techniques to show more species of frogs are present in the resource-rich Pilbara region than previously thought, including a species previously unknown to science, PhysOrg.com reported Tuesday.

"The deserts of Australia are often believed to be empty regions with few species," ANU doctoral candidate Renee Catullo said. "However genetic work on reptiles and amphibians has shown that there are large numbers of species in what looks like a barren landscape to most people.

"We have also identified a new species of burrowing frog called the Pilbara toadlet (Uperoleia saxatilis), which is just over 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) long," she said.

"Little is known about this small, brown creature but it has been found following cyclonic rains and occurs in rocky gorges and creeks of the region," Catullo said. "The good news is that it appears to be secure from a conservation perspective.

"Toadlets are native to Australia and this new species brings the total number to 27, the second-largest group of frog species in the country."

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