Smallest Frogs Ever Discovered Have Hilarious Names

A tree frog sits on a branch June 8, 2005 in Owings, Maryland. The state of Maryland is home to several species of frogs each of which have their own distingue call or sound that they produce.
Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The smallest frogs in the world have been discovered off the island of Madagascar, and they have the best names ever.

The frogs are part of the newly-created “Mini” genus, and their scientific names are Mini mum, Mini scule and Mini ature, reported Smithsonian Magazine.

The findings were recently published in PLoS, a nonprofit science and medicine publication. Study lead author Mark Scherz, writing for The Conversation, said the smallest of the frogs is just a little bit longer than a grain of rice and the largest of the group could sit on a thumbnail with room to spare.

Scherz, an evolutionary biologist at Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians University, said the team decided to have “a bit of fun” when coming up with the names for the tiny frogs.

But the size of the frogs is what makes them so incredible. Mini mum, the smallest of the amphibian discovery, measures about eight to 10 millimeters long and was discovered in Manombo in the eastern region of the island. Mini scule, from Sainte Luce in southeastern Madagascar, is a little bit larger than Mini mum and has teeth in its upper jaw. Mini ature, from Andohahela in southeast Madagascar, measures a whopping 14.9 millimeters long.

Scherz explained the difficulty involved with trying to find tiny frogs the size of a grain of rice among leaves and other debris in the forest.

“We often spend months in the forest, under very difficult conditions, trying to find frogs and reptiles. Because of their size, the tiny frogs are exceptionally hard to find so the trick is to listen for their calls, and then track them,” he said.

While the task is difficult, it can also be rewarding — especially when new discoveries are made.

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Scherz pointed out that Madagascar, a “treasure trove of biodiversity,” has the highest frog diversity per square mile than any country in the world, and is teeming with more than 350 frog species.

On coming up with the names for the tiny frogs, Scherz said in his blog that wordplay was about 70 percent of his personality.

“It’s great that we were able to find a funny name that is also informative; Mini is not just amusing, but also an accurate descriptor,” he said.

He admitted that the names were a “bit whimsical,” and while that kind of thing is not common in the science community, he hoped it would help make that science more “accessible, interesting, and engaging.”