Elfin Mountain Toad Discovered in Misty, Mossy Elfin Forest

CC BY 4.0. Nikolay A. Poyarkov Jr.

The newly discovered horned mountain toad found in Southern Vietnam's elfin forest is the smallest of its species – and is already considered endangered.

If one were to discover a tiny one-inch toad with fascinating horn-like projections above its eyes, would there be any better place to do so other than in an elfin forest? For that, a group of herpetologists exploring the elfin forest on Langbian Plateau, Southern Vietnam, should feel rather fortunate.

The setting in question is a highland wet subtropical evergreen forest – one which the newly discovered elfin mountain toad (Ophryophryne elfina) calls home. The name, incidentally, translates to "elfish eyebrow toad." The wee toad lives on summits higher than 6000 feet in an area near the sea where rainfall is plentiful. According to an unusually poetic press statement, "Both the rocks and the dwarf curbed trees are covered with a heavy layer of moss, whilst a thick misty fog is constantly lingering amongst the trees. This is why such wet mountain ecosystems are known as elfin forests." And as a toad dwelling deep in the forest of magical misty hills, O. elfina seems aptly named.

Elfin forest

The elfin forest on Langbian Plateau, southern Vietnam; habitat of the elfin mountain toad. Nikolay A. Poyarkov Jr./CC BY 4.0

Unfortunately for the elfin mountain toad and all of its brethren in southeast Asia, habitat loss is an enormous threat and the amphibians of the region appear to be particularly vulnerable to habitat alterations. Deforestation, habitat loss and modification are continued threats in southern Indochina, ones that even mythological elfish eyebrow toads may be powerless to avoid.