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Pumpkin Toadlet Hearing

October 2, 2017

Tiny orange frogs called pumpkin toadlets can’t hear their own calls.

Transcript

This is an adult Brachycephalus pitanga on a finger tip. Sandra Goutte

Adult pumpkin toadlets (Brachycephalus pitanga) fit on the tip of a finger. (Sandra Goutte)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Pumpkin toadlets get a hearing. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Call of a pumpkin toadlet)

This cricket-like sound is the call of a tiny pumpkin toadlet from southern Brazil. Now, researchers write in Scientific Reports that the bright orange frog can’t hear its own voice. Herpetologist Sandra Goutte says the males call frequently, likely impressing females by visually inflating their air sacs. While at the University of Campinas, Goutte and her colleagues found that the toadlets don’t respond when played recordings of their own calls.

SANDRA GOUTTE (University of Campinas, Brazil):

And that’s when we found that the organ responsible for high frequency hearing, the inner ear itself, was vestigial.

HIRSHON:

She says the highly poisonous amphibian hangs out in broad daylight, unafraid of predators, but probably evolved from a shyer, less toxic species with a functional inner ear. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard