‘Slender’ creature — with ‘prominent’ eyes — found inside a plant. It’s a new species

As night fell across a forest in eastern Brazil, a “slender” creature’s call pierced the air. The “smooth” animal was hiding inside a flowering plant. When researchers found it, they discovered a new species.

Researchers ventured into a forest park in Bahia state in 2015 and 2018 to survey local wildlife, according to a study published Nov. 20 in the journal Zootaxa. The forest is part of a biodiversity hotspot.

Among the dense foliage on the forest floor, researchers spotted some bromeliads, the study said. Hiding inside the plants were six frogs. Looking closer at the frogs, researchers realized they’d discovered a new species: Phyllodytes iuna, or the iuna heart-tongued frog.

Iuna heart-tongued frogs are considered “medium-sized,” reaching about 1 inch in size, the study said. They have “slender” bodies, “long” limbs and “prominent” eyes. The skin on their back is “smooth,” while their stomachs have two rows of bumps.

A Phyllodytes iuna, or iuna heart-tongued frog, sitting on a leaf.
A Phyllodytes iuna, or iuna heart-tongued frog, sitting on a leaf.

Photos show the iuna heart-tongued frog. The frog has a yellowish body and a snout tinged with brown. Down its back, it has darker brown patches that researchers described as a loose “band-like pattern.”

Iuna heart-tongued frogs were found calling at night from bromeliads, the study said.

A Phyllodytes iuna, or iuna heart-tongued frog, sitting on a plant.
A Phyllodytes iuna, or iuna heart-tongued frog, sitting on a plant.

Researchers said they named the new species after the iuna musical riff played on a berimbau, a single-stringed bow instrument, during a game of capoeira. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian dance martial art “developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil during the colonial era as a means of self-expression, resistance, and community-building.” The iuna is a specific riff played as a capoeira student becomes a teacher, the study said.

A YouTube video from joga muito capoeira shows the iuna riff being played on a berimbau. The riff has a complex pattern, percussive beat and airy sound.

The new species’ name is intended to honor capoeira and celebrate Afro-Brazilian history, researchers said.

So far, the iuna heart-tongued frog has been found only in the Estação Ecológica de Wenceslau Guimarães ecological park in Bahia, the study said. This park is near the country’s eastern coast and about 700 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

The new species was identified by its size, coloring, head shape, the location of its bumps and other subtle physical features, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between about 4% and about 14% genetic divergence from other heart-tongued frogs.

The research team included Laisa Santos, Rafaella Roseno, Mirco Solé and Iuri Ribeiro Dias.

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