Real transformer found in Ecuador

2015-04-02 07:10
The Desert Rain Frog. (Picture: Shutterstock))

The Desert Rain Frog. (Picture: Shutterstock))

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Quito - It doesn't turn into Prince Charming, but a new species of frog discovered in Ecuador has earned the nickname "transformer frog" for its ability to change its skin from spiny to smooth in five minutes.

The tiny frog, which measures about two centimetres, was found in the misty forests of the Andes mountains, and lives in a mossy habitat where its shape-shifting powers likely help it to camouflage itself, researchers said.

"The strangest, most outlandish thing is that this species can change the texture of its skin," said Ecuadoran biologist Juan Manuel Guayasamin, who led the research team that announced the discovery.

The species, dubbed Pristimantis mutabilis, is described in the April issue of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

While some octopuses, an invertebrate animal, can change the color and structure of their skin, "no one had ever described a vertebrate species that changes skin texture," Guayasamin told AFP.

"Reptiles that change skin color have been documented, like chameleons, but never had such dramatic changes in skin texture been seen," he said.

Other frog species change the texture of their skin over the course of a season, but never had a frog been found that could transform its skin so quickly, Guayasamin and four co-authors wrote in their article.

They clocked the tiny green-and-brown frog's transformation at 330 seconds.

Photos of the experiment show the frog at zero seconds with rough skin covered in spiny protuberances, which gradually morphs into a smooth, slippery surface.

The trait may help the frog escape from danger, said Guayasamin, the director of the Centre for Research on Biodiversity and Climate Change at Ecuador's Universidad Tecnologica Indoamerica.

Extraordinary and surprising

Though the discovery has just been announced, the species was in fact found back in 2009 by two US researchers, Tim and Katherine Krynak, who came across the peculiar little frog in the Las Gralarias nature reserve, about 35km west of the Ecuadoran capital Quito.

"The next day in the lab, they realised that the protuberances had disappeared, that the frog was completely smooth. Obviously they were surprised," said Guayasamin, who co-wrote the paper with the Krynaks, US ecologist Carl Hutter and Spanish researcher Jaime Culebras.

But it took six years to carry out "solid" scientific work identifying the species, said Guayasamin, who is still working with colleagues from the United States, Brazil and Switzerland to understand how the frog's skin works.

He said the frog is nocturnal, lives in trees and has several different calls - also an unusual trait for amphibians.

Seven have been captured so far, in Las Gralarias and another reserve called Los Cedros in the northern province of Imbabura. The two populations look alike but have slight genetic differences, Guayasamin said.

Around 15 previously undocumented amphibian species have been discovered in the past three decades in Ecuador, one of the world's most biodiverse countries.

"It's extraordinary and surprising that we can still find completely new animals," said Guayasamin.

Read more on:    ecuador

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.