Dating from around 99 million years ago, these are the oldest frog remains on record, and scientists are very excited about it.
Discoveries like this are rare and almost invaluable, due to the information which can be gathered from them.
This tiny tree frog was probably chasing a beetle when it became stuck in the sticky sap that was oozing from the bark. That’s where it has remained for almost 100 million years. The discovery is part of four fossils which have offered scientists a glimpse into life in the earliest rainforests. Whilst some species of frogs existed up to 200 million years ago, little is known about them. Their small bodies did not generally preserve well, and so a specimen like this could pose to answer many long-standing questions.
Originally published in Nature‘s Scientific Reports, the researchers were subsequently quoted in EurekAlert!
“It’s almost unheard of to get a fossil frog from this time period that is small, has preservation of small bones and is mostly three-dimensional. This is pretty special,” said David Blackburn, study co-author and the associate curator of herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “But what’s most exciting about this animal is its context. These frogs were part of a tropical ecosystem that, in some ways, might not have been that different to what we find today – minus the dinosaurs.”
The specimen is tiny, less than an inch long, but its features are quite clear. The head and front legs are visible and clear, its midsection slightly crushed, but the hind limb remains partially visible, as does some of the beetle it was pursuing when it died.
Back in 2016, a pair of bird wings from a similar timeframe were discovered, offering additional insights into the avian connections to the dinosaurs.
Blackburn remains hopeful for the discovery of further examples in the area; “We don’t have a lot of single-species frog communities in forests. It seems extremely unlikely that there’s only one. There could be a lot more fossils coming.”