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Frontiers
Biotic Surveys Program Uncovers Smallest Frog

September 1997

And the award for the smallest frog in the Northern Hemisphere goes to Eleutherodactylus iberia, a one-centimeter-long frog from Cuba. Eleutherodactylus is tied for the world record with the Southern Hemisphere's smallest frog.

The discovery of the Northern Hemisphere frog is another example of work going on in NSF's Biotic Surveys and Inventories Program. "The program is unique in that its purpose is funding the discovery of species new to science," says Program Director Meredith Lane.

Cuban scientist Alberto Estrada discovered the tiny orange-striped black frog living under leaf litter in a humid rainforest on Cuba's Monte Iberia. Estrada was working with S. Blair Hedges, a biologist from Pennsylvania State University.

Their find was published in the journal Copeia, where they announced the name Eleutherodactylus iberia--two words that are more than three times as long as the frog itself. Says Lane, "Hedges' results are gratifying because a high proportion of Cuba's species remains to be discovered."

Cuban scientists are restricted by their country's economic conditions, and often team with foreign colleagues.

"The tropical forests in Cuba are even more fragile and more threatened than those in the Amazon of South America," says Hedges. "Cuba's forests are small and they are now being cut down at an increasing rate. We still have an incomplete knowledge of the biodiversity of this planet, including areas like Cuba that are very close to the United States."


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