Researchers Discover A New Species Of Poisonous Toad In Brazil

A new species of toad was recently discovered in Brazil and it’s been dubbed the “pumpkin” toad. It’s cute, tiny, bright orange, and poisonous.

Researchers discovered the little neon toads in the Mantiqueira mountain range in Brazil. Though originally discovered in 2016, the little toads, which are less than an inch long, were thought to belong to an existing species group, B. ephippium.

However, it was recently discovered that the pumpkin toads are a unique Brachycephalus species.

Photo: Plos One/Ivan Nunes, Carla S. Guimarães, et al.

In the study published at Plos One, a professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences at São Paulo State University, Ivan Nunes, emphasized the importance and excitement of the discovery. He said, “The best moment as a scientist is when you are looking at something and you are the only person who knows at that moment.”

Their uniqueness from other toads is based on “based on morphological characters (especially osteology and head shape).” Compared with other species in the B. ephippium group, there is “divergence in partial mitochondrial DNA gene sequences.” The pumpkin toads also have dark faded spots on their skulls, making them completely unique.

Photo: Plos One/Ivan Nunes, Carla S. Guimarães, et al.

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Photo: Plos One/Ivan Nunes, Carla S. Guimarães, et al.

Though poisonous, the new species of toad doesn’t pose a significant threat to humans. The little frogs do secrete a poison, tetrodotoxin, which can be harmful but only if ingested, like through the mouth or an open wound. According to the CDC, “Tetrodotoxin interferes with the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles and causes an increasing paralysis of the muscles of the body.” It can be fatal to humans, but the CDC noted that poisoning usually occurs only when directly eating something containing the poison.

Photo: Plos One/Ivan Nunes, Carla S. Guimarães, et al.
Photo: Plos One/Ivan Nunes, Carla S. Guimarães, et al.

Beyond being a bright neon color, these toads also glow under ultraviolet light, similar to certain marsupials. It’s unclear what benefit this bioluminescence provides the toads, but future research will work to uncover that.

Photo: Plos One/Ivan Nunes, Carla S. Guimarães, et al.
Photo: Plos One/Ivan Nunes, Carla S. Guimarães, et al.

Scientists are still studying these unique little toads to get a better understanding of their lifespan and population. It’s currently believed that the area the toads were found has a few hundred of the toads and it’s unclear if they reside elsewhere in the world or Brazil.

Upon further research, it’s possible that conservation efforts will need to be enacted to preserve the new species.

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