• Scientists were finally able to describe an elusive frog species
  • The frog has a uniquely shaped head and chocolate brown skin
  • They are likely an important part of their underground ecosystem

Scientists have finally documented a rather elusive frog species in the Amazon rainforest. The adorable creature has a tapir-like nose and looks like a chocolate frog.

Locals at Peru's Comunidad Nativa Tres Esquinas have actually known about the unique frog for a long time, but it has remained elusive to scientists, Pensoft Publishers noted on its blog. One of the locals' names for the creature is "rana danta" or "tapir frog" because of its head profile's resemblance to the tapir. The Amazon Tapir is locally known as "danta."

In particular, the frog's head is quite similar in shape to that of the tapir's nose trunk. Its smooth, brownish skin also gives it a rather chocolatey appearance.

According to the researchers, whose work describing the species was recently published in Evolutionary Systematics, frogs in the microhylid genus Synapturanus have been "scarcely studied" because of their burrowing habits. As such, "their diversity is likely underestimated."

"These frogs are really hard to find, and that leads to them being understudied," Michelle Thompson of the Keller Science Action Center at Chicago's Field Museum, one of the study's authors, noted, as per the blog.

The researchers finally got a breakthrough with the help of local guides who were already familiar with the frogs. During the expedition to "fill the knowledge gap of herpetofauna diversity," the researchers were taken to peatlands, where they searched at night when the frogs were said to be the most active.

Although the frogs were difficult to see because they live underground, the researchers could hear the noise they were making.

"After a few hours, one hopped out of his little burrow, and we were screaming, 'Somebody grab it!'" Thompson said, as per Pensoft Publishers.

Upon analysis of the frogs' DNA as well as the sound of their calls, the researchers confirmed that the tapir-looking frog is, indeed, a new species in the Synapturanus genus. The researchers named it the Synapturanus danta, referring to its resemblance to the Amazon Tapir.

Germán Chávez of Peru's Instituto Peruano de Herpetología , the study's first author, shared photos of the frog as well as a recording of its call.

"Frogs of this genus are spread throughout the Amazon, but since they live underground and can't get very far by digging, the ranges each species is distributed in are fairly small," Chávez said, according to the blog. "Since we found this new species in Amazon peatland, it wouldn't be strange for it to be restricted to this environment."

Thompson said the creatures are likely an important part of their underground ecosystem.

Chávez further noted that they may be indicators of healthy peatlands. However, further studies will be needed to understand the species better.

"Currently, there is minimal deforestation affecting the peatlands around the type locality," the researchers wrote. "Given that only three specimens are known, there is large uncertainty in the distribution and population status of this species. Therefore, we suggest the IUCN Red List category of Data Deficient."

Jungle Rainforest
Representative image of a jungle/rainforest. Pixabay