Brachycephalus pitanga

by Ross Whetstone

One of the most interesting frogs I’ve encountered — the red pumpkin toadlet (Brachycephalus pitanga). This diminutive (<15mm snout-to-vent) direct-developer is named for its resemblance to the brightly-colored pitanga fruit. Unlike the fruit, they are decidedly unpalatable due to tetrodotoxin in their skin.

In some sites, you could stand still for only a moment and spot a dozen of these frogs slowly walking through the leaf litter.

Unfazed by the amplexing male, the female simply drags him along.

These frogs have a curious habit of frequently “yawning”. It’s unclear exactly why they do it, but it could be to visually communicate as they are physically unable to hear their own vocalizations. Two individuals that bumped into each other in the leaf litter were observed silently yawning at each other before parting ways.

This individual was found walking along a fallen fern frond nearly 40cm off the ground. This species is typically found exclusively in the leaf litter but several were spotted climbing near the bases of tree trunks.

Brachycephalus bones fluoresce under UV light. Individual toads show varying levels of fluorescence in their skeletons, creating unique patterns when illuminated.  The purpose of this adaptation is unclear.