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Australian scientists discover new ‘chocolate frog’ in swamp

A ‘chocolate frog’ tree frog has been discovered in the lowland rainforests of New Guinea by a team of Australian scientists.

Tree frogs are recognized by their green skin- but this particular one has been named ‘chocolate frog’ due to its chocolate brown colour.

The closest known relative of the Australian green frog is the Litoria mira. The two kinds look very similar, the only difference is that the tree frog is usually green while the new species has a lovely chocolate colour.

The Litoria mira is distinguishable from the rest of the Litoria by virtue of its unique combination of moderately large size, webbing on hand, relatively short and robust limbs and a small violet patch on skin on the edge of its eyes.

The frog was first spotted by an Australian scientist, Steve Richards, in 2016 when it was reported that it could be a new species and was being considered as an addition to the animal kingdom. Some specimens have been taken from the coco-coloured frog for scientific and research purposes.

During the late tertiary period, around 2.6 million years ago, Australia and New Guinea were linked together. Now, New Guinea is characterized by a large rainforest and northern Australia consists mainly of Savannah.

The green tree frogs, scientifically known as Litoria caerulea can be found across northern and eastern Australia and New Guinea. The male frog is about the size of 77 mm and the female is 110 mm. This species usually makes cool, moist places including laundries, letterboxes and toilets in urban areas.

It is also believed by some scientists that these frogs are capable of controlling how much water evaporates through their skin and hence can control their own body temperature.

It is a likeable species and lives happily around humans too. Its modest requirements have also made it an easy to live with and manageable pet.

The team which discovered the chocolate brown species consisted of herpetologists from Sao Paulo State University.

Steve Richards, co-author from the South Australian Museum Richards recently said that the hot, swampy areas with lots of crocodiles is where these frogs prefer to live. This creates a barrier for further exploration.

Paul Oliver of the Centre for Planetary Health and Food Security and Queensland Museum, who described the discovery in a co-authored paper in the journal, The Australian Journal of Zoology, said in a statement that they named the new Litoria species of frogs as Mira, which means surprised or strange in Latin. The discovery was also a sudden and surprising one.

According to Oliver, settling the biotic interchange between these two regions is very important for understanding how the rainforest and savannah habitat have expanded and overlapped over the time.

He also added that research suggests that 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago, in the Pliocene, there was still connectivity between the two species across lowland tropical habitats of northern Australia and New Guinea.

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