SOUTH BRISBANE, Australia — Watch your step! Scientists have discovered a new frog species that disguises itself as poop. The new study describes Litoria naispela as being camouflaged to look like bird droppings in order to ward off hungry predators.
The quirky amphibian joins four other new species of frogs uncovered in Papua New Guinea by Australian scientists. Researchers from the South Australian Museum, Queensland Museum, and Griffith University located the frogs in “very wet mountain forest areas” along the central mountain range of New Guinea.
The five new species are named Litoria daraiensis, Litoria gracilis, Litoria haematogaster, Litoria lisae, and Litoria naispela. Lead author and South Australian Museum Honorary Researcher Dr. Steve Richards collected the information on the five frogs over 30 years.
“I spent a huge amount of time waiting at night beside tree holes in rain, hail and (moon)shine, for frogs to emerge in order to find these amazing species, and to try and learn about their biology,” Richards says in a media release.
“New Guinea has more species of frogs than any other island in the world and most are found nowhere else. New discoveries like this show that this richness of species is also matched by a diverse set of ways to make a living as frog!”
Queensland Museum scientist Dr. Paul Oliver, a joint appointee with Griffith University, says the new species highlight the remarkable and poorly understood diversity of New Guinea frogs.
“These small tree frogs lay their eggs out of the water, typically on leaves, quite different to your typical treefrog, which lay their eggs directly into water,” Dr. Oliver says.
“Tadpoles of one new species, Litoria naispela actually live in water collected in tree hollows, a behavior not previously documented in frogs from New Guinea. Litoria naispela also has juveniles that have color and patterning that closely resembles bird droppings – we think this is a form of defensive masquerade.”
South Australian Museum Acting Director Justine van Mourik acknowledged the vital role museums play in exploring and describing Australia’s biodiversity.
“Amphibian populations are in decline globally and there is still so much to learn about Australia’s amphibian biodiversity,” Director van Mourik says, according to a statement SWNS.
“Through the important work of our taxonomists, we are continuing to discover species, learn the vital role they play within our natural environments and better understand how we can protect these amazing species now and into the future.”
The new paper is published recently in the journal Zootaxa.
South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.