Tiny chameleons, diminutive frogs, and miniature salamanders—the list of Lilliputian animals keeps growing, even as the record for the world’s smallest vertebrate keeps shrinking. Researchers continuously find pint-sized versions of familiar organisms tucked into the nooks and crannies of habitats around the world.
Why do some vertebrates get so small? What happens to their bodies when they downsize? How do they need to change in order to accommodate their extreme size?
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Nadia Frobisch is an assistant professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, where she studies the evolution and developmental biology of vertebrate body plans, specifically amphibians. She seeks to understand the evolution of developmental pathways and the acquisition of derived morphologies in modern species, hoping to elucidate the origins of the three current amphibian groups.
James Hanken is a member of the Encyclopedia of Life Executive Committee and the Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, where he is also a Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Curator in Herpetology. His laboratory studies evolutionary morphology, development and systematics of vertebrates, especially amphibians.