The frog was discovered in 2010 in the mountains of western Panama by Andreas Hertz and colleagues, who are reptile and amphibian specialists at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
“Although we recognized that the male mating call of this species differs from all what we had heard before and therefore suspected it to be new, much effort was involved to finally spot it in the dense vegetation,” Hertz said in a news release . “When we finally caught the first individuals by hand, we noticed that it dyes one’s fingers yellow when it is handled. The scientific name (Diasporus citrinobapheus) of this new frog refers to this characteristic and means yellow dyer rainfrog.”
The frog measures less than .08 inches. It belongs to a species-rich group of frogs known as “rainfrogs.” Rather than the tadpole stage, they develop directly as little frogs inside the egg.
The yellow frog also has a distinctive call, which the researchers said they could hear before they discovered them. (Click here to listen to the frog’s call.)
To assure the validity of the frog as a new species, biologists studied body structure, coloration, molecular genetic data, and vocalizations of a series of individuals. They then compared their findings with the data taken from closely related species, according to the release.
They also examined skin secretions to determine whether the yellow dye was poisonous, reported Livescience.com .
“We cannot say whether the dye is any good as a predatory defense, as we could not find any poisonous components,” Hertz said. “Maybe the color is just easily washed out and has no particular function. However, for now, this peculiarity of the new species remains enigmatic.”