‘Most beautiful’ creature found hopping in Madagascar rainforest. It’s a new species

Deep in the rainforest of Madagascar, a small, bright green creature hops along the forest floor.

The little amphibian spends its days hiding from the bright sun and its nights hunting and calling for a mate.

Madagascar is rich in resources that allow an immense diversity of species to thrive there, many of which have yet to be discovered.

Mark Scherz fell in love with the island nation when he was just a child and made it a life goal to study the country’s natural world.

Curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen, Scherz started conducting field work in Madagascar 14 years ago.

“I’ve been conducting research in Madagascar since 2009, and have tried (with some success) to go back every year or two,” Scherz told McClatchy News in an email.

On his latest trip, Scherz and his colleagues conducted a series of “field campaigns” to look for creatures that might be hiding in the forest.

“Most of our field trips range from a couple weeks to a few months. Once in the field, life is totally different,” Scherz said. “Most work for a herpetologist happens at night when most of the reptiles and amphibians are active, and we can spend hours searching for them across the forest. We spend a lot of time finding suitable habitat—a waterfall, say, or a particular plant—or chasing particular calls (frog calls are species-specific). But in the morning, we have to get up and study the animals we brought back to camp the night before, get photographs, and preserve specimens for future research.”

But the work pays off.

In a new study published in Zootaxa on June 19, Scherz and his colleagues describe a species that had never been seen before — and it’s beautiful.

The researchers shared the discovery and described Guibemantis pulcherrimus, or the “most beautiful,” in Latin, tree frog.

Guibemantis pulcherrimus, or “most beautiful” tree frog, was found in the Marojejy region in northeast Madagascar, the study said. Mark Scherz
Guibemantis pulcherrimus, or “most beautiful” tree frog, was found in the Marojejy region in northeast Madagascar, the study said. Mark Scherz

“G. pulcherrimus is particularly stunning,” Scherz said. “It was exciting to me, because the individuals we were seeing were quite different from the already known Guibemantis pulcher, so they really seemed likely to be a new species. And indeed, they were.”

Not much is known about the new frog species, but using data from its sister species, G. pulcher, meaning “beautiful,” the researchers believe the new species lives on screw pines in northern Madagascar and likely follows a similar reproductive pattern to the other frog, laying eggs in the water of bromeliad plants high up in the forest canopy.

Tree frogs, as an animal family, include more than 800 species from various forests around the globe, according to the National Wildlife Foundation.

They can be incredibly small, ranging from less than an inch in some cases to the largest tree frog, the white-lipped tree frog, which is about 5 inches long, according to the National Wildlife Foundation.

They are nature’s insecticide, the National Wildlife Foundation says, consuming flies, ants, crickets, beetles, moths and small invertebrates as part of their daily diet.

“Discoveries of new species can yield surprising and important insights, such as new medicines or biotechnologies, and sometimes they even re-write the history or knowledge of a given group,” Scherz said. “Discovering the most beautiful frog points towards how much wonder and diversity is still out there to be explore(d) and understood. And bringing it to the public raises awareness of the plight of its forest home, and just how little we know about so many parts of the world.”

Madagascar is an island nation off the eastern coast of Africa.

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