On a remote island in Brazil, the sun began to set, and a color-changing creature began its nightly transformation. Its skin shifted hues, its pattern morphed but its green bones stayed the same.
Visiting scientists watched the unique animal and quickly realized they’d discovered a new species.
Researchers ventured into the Amazon rainforest to survey the biodiversity of one of its less-studied areas, according to a study published Jan. 31 in the peer-reviewed journal Plos ONE. Between 2019 and 2020, they visited about two dozen islands in the middle of Juruena River.
On a few of these islands, researchers encountered some colorful tree frogs that didn’t match any known records, the study said. They’d discovered a new species: Scinax juruena, or the Juruena snouted tree frog.
Juruena snouted tree frogs are considered “small,” reaching just over 1 inch in length, researchers said. They have bulging eyes, “rounded” snouts and green bones. Their eyes have a “reddish brown horizontal stripe.”
Researchers also discovered that Juruena snouted tree frogs change color “between night and day,” the study said. Photos show this transformation.
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At night, Juruena snouted tree frogs have a lemon yellow coloring with some light brown speckles on their backs and noses. Their limbs and undersides look almost creamy white, photos show.
During the day, the frog’s coloring darkens to a rusty brown color, a photo shows. Its limbs and belly become gray-brown. The blotches on its body become “darker and larger,” researchers said.
Juruena snouted tree frogs were found calling, mating and perching on plants “in or near large ponds formed by river flooding,” the study said.
Researchers said they named the new species after the Juruena River where the new species was discovered.
So far, the new species has been found on four islands of the Juruena River in the western state of Mato Grosso. These islands are about 1,340 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro.
The new species was identified by its size, body shape, vocal sac and coloring, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between 3% and about 11% genetic divergence from other snouted tree frogs.
The research team included Miquéias Ferrão, James Hanken, Fabrício Oda, Karla Campião, Marcos Penhacek, Samuel Anjos and Domingo Rodrigues.
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