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World's smallest frog is also poisonous, research finds

Native to Cuba, the tiny Mount Iberia frog packs a poison punch, thanks to its diet of alkaloid-laden mites.

By Charles Q. ChoiLiveScience Contributor / November 3, 2010

A frog discovered in Cuba currently holds the world record for the smallest frog. It's also poisonous.

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The record-holder for the smallest frog in the world apparently makes up for its miniature size by packing a wallop of poison, research reveals.

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With a body that's only 10 millimeters long, the Mount Iberia frog (Eleutherodactylus iberia) from Cuba currently holds the Guinness World Record for smallest frog.

Investigating these dwarf frogs is painstaking work, said researcher Miguel Vences, an evolutionary biologist at the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany.

"You have to crawl on your knees and move leaf by leaf," Vences told LiveScience. "And when you discover one of these frogs, they usually jump away immediately so that you have to start all over again."

When Vences found his first specimen, he smelled a bitter odor and suspected it might be coated in toxic alkaloids. (Morphine and caffeine are alkaloids.)

"At the time I just mentioned this as a crazy and rampant speculation — I was sure it would prove to be wrong, and was even more surprised when my chemistry colleagues sent me the first results, stating they indeed had found alkaloids in the skins," Vences said.

Only four other groups of frogs in the world secrete defensive toxins onto their skin, including the infamous poison-dart frogs of Latin America. It remains uncertain precisely how deadly this new poison dwarf might be.