Scientists found the toxic, electric-orange amphibian in a single hilly area near the Caribbean coast, according to a study published this week in the journal Zootaxa.
Measuring just 12.7 millimeters in length, the newly described Andinobates geminisae remains something of a mystery, according to the study team.
For one, the mini-amphibian “looks nothing like” its closest genetic relatives in the region, mainly because of its orange color, study co-author Andrew Crawford, a professor of evolutionary genetics and biostatistics at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, said by email.
Instead, “the new species superficially looks much more like the strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio),” Crawford said. “Perhaps A. geminisae had been observed previously but was confused with Oophaga.”
The two frogs may also share the same orange warning signal to predators in an evolutionary tactic known as Müllerian mimicry. This occurs when two or more poisonous or unpalatable species adopt the same colorful warning system so predators are more likely to avoid them.
“But this is pure speculation at this point,” Crawford added.