‘Dwarf’ creature — with orange skin — found under rotting leaves. It’s a new species

Under the cover of night, a minuscule creature hopped along the edge of a forest trail in Vietnam, finding the perfect position beneath a blanket of dead and rotting leaves. But despite its hiding place, the orange animal was spotted by researchers.

Scientists conducted field surveys in a karst forest in the Sinh Long Commune in May 2023, according to a study published Nov. 20 in the journal Zootaxa. That’s when they found the brightly colored animals.

Beneath the dead leaves, the researchers found two “small” male frogs, the study said. At first, the creatures appeared to be a known species, but after taking a closer look and running DNA tests, the team realized they’d discovered a new species: Vietnamophryne aurantifusca, or the orange-brown dwarf frog.

The “stout” frogs measure approximately 0.7 inches, and they have “short” forearms and “short and thick” hind limbs, according to researchers. They have a “round” snout, and their medium-sized eyes protrude slightly from their heads.

Photos show the creature’s “orangish-brown” skin that gets darker toward the back of its body. The frog has mostly “smooth” skin, but there are dark tubercles “densely scattered” on its head, body and limbs. It also has a “prominent ridge” along its spine.

Scientists said the back of the Vietnamophryne aurantifusca’s legs are darker brown and have “black pustules.” The creatures have “whitish mottling” along their jaw and mouth, and their fingers and toes have dark gray and white marbling.

The new species was distinguished by its size, coloring, skin and DNA, according to the study.

Researchers named the orange-brown dwarf frog after the Latin words for orange and brown, “aurantium” and “fuscus,” they said. The frog is only known from the area where it was found.

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