The World’s Smallest Vertebrate

Paedophryne Amanuensis – The World’s Smallest Vertebrate

We all know the largest living vertebrate is the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). This is also the largest mammal in the world, can grow up to nearly 30m and weigh up to 173 tons. In contrast, a species of the smallest vertebrate in the world that very few people know is called Paedophryne amanuensis. This is a microscopic frog discovered in 2009.

An individual frog Paedophryne amanuensis fits on a human fingernail

An individual frog Paedophryne amanuensis fits on a human fingernail

Paedophryne amanuensis was first discovered by Christopher Austin, a zoologist at Louisiana State University, and his graduate student Eric Rittmeyer. At first, the scientific community delayed the official recognition of this discovery, and it was not until 2012 that information about the frog Paedophryne amanuensis was published. That was the day when Paedophryne amanuensis was officially named and given the title of the smallest known vertebrate in the world.

Characteristics and behavior

Paedophryne amanuensis is only 7.7mm long, which makes it easy to sit on your fingernails. Due to their high skin-to-mass ratio, these frogs are very susceptible to dehydration. Therefore, they often live in places with high humidity such as moist foliage on a tropical forest floor.

Paedophryne amanuensis are considered great athletes, they are capable of jumping 30 times their body length. They feed on small invertebrates such as insects and worms.

The World's Smallest Vertebrate

The World’s Smallest Vertebrate

When mating, the male frog produces a high-level noise similar to that of an insect, ranging from 8400 to 9400Hz. Interestingly, Paedophryne amanuensis is not like other frogs. It skips the tadpole stage and hatches into “a jumping worm” – miniature adult animals.

Since these frogs were discovered relatively recently, their conservation has not yet been established. Hopefully they will find a variety of invertebrates to eat and a suitable environment to live in.

We can’t tell if Paedophryne amanuensis is already the smallest vertebrate, as we’ll most likely discover something even smaller in the future.