7 of the Smallest Amphibians and Reptiles

Teeny tiny creatures

Photo: F. Glaw, J. Köhler, T. Townsend, M. Vences/PLOS One/Wikimedia Commons

Just because something is small doesn't mean it isn't a big deal. Take the Brookesia micra, a leaf chameleon found only on a tiny islet located near Madagascar. Described for the first time in 2012, a male B. micra is about 0.6 inches (15 to 16 millimeters) long. That's barely larger than a tablet of aspirin. The species may represent an extreme case of dwarfism, and a few of its immediate relatives on the islet are roughly the same size.

As minuscule as B. micra is, there are even tinier examples of amphibians and reptiles in the wild, facing down the big world.

Paedophryne amauensis

Photo: E. Rittmeyer, A. Allison, M. Gründler, D. Thompson, C. Austin/PLOS One/Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to small animals, the Paedophryne amauensis is the big winner. This frog, found along the forest floor of Papua New Guinea, measures a mere 0.3 inches (7.7 millimeters). Researchers had trouble locating the species since its calls resemble those of forest insects. They only discovered the frog by scooping up leaf litter in plastic bags through which they were able to see the frogs.

Virgin Islands dwarf gecko

Photo: Alejandro Sánchez/Wikimedia Commons

The Virgin Islands dwarf gecko (S. parthenopion) is the smallest known reptile and lizard species, along with the Jaragua dwarf gecko (Sphaerodactylus ariasae). Both species measure around 0.63 to 0.71 inches (16 to 18 millimeters). The Virgin Islands dwarf gecko was discovered in 1964 on the Virgin Gorda, but it also has been spotted on Tortola and Moskito Island. We don't know the full extent of the gecko's population or range, however, due to its size and ability to blend into its surroundings.

Mount d'Ambre leaf chameleon

Photo: Andrea Schieber/Wikimedia Commons

A cousin of the Brookesia micra, the Mount d'Ambre leaf chameleon (B. tuberculata), along with the Madagascan dwarf chameleon (B. minima), range in size between 0.55 and 0.75 inches (14 and 19 millimeters). The Mount d'Ambre leaf chameleon is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Speckled Cape tortoise

Photo: Matěj Baťha/Wikimedia Commons

The speckled Cape tortoise (Chersobius signatus) is the smallest tortoise in the world. They measure roughly 2.5 to 4.3 inches (52 to 110 millimeters). The smallest size is roughly the length of a golf tee. This tiny tortoise is considered to be endangered by the IUCN thanks in no small part to agricultural development of its habitat in northwestern South Africa.

Oak toad

Photo: Everglades National Park/Wikimedia Commons

Able to perch on a finger like in the photo above, the oak toad (Anaxyrus quercicus) is considered the smallest toad species in North America. An individual can measure between 0.75 to 1.5 inches (19 to 33 millimeters). Aside from its size, it's identifiable based on a yellow or white stripe along its back that stands out against its darker skin. Ants are its preferred meal.

Barbados threadsnake

Photo: Nicolas Perrault III/Wikimedia Commons

The Barbados threadsnake (Tetracheilostoma carlae) is a member of the Leptotyphlopidae family. According to the scientist that discovered the species in 2006, they rarely get wider than a strand of spaghetti. These snakes don't grow much larger than 11.8 inches (30 centimeters). T. carlae is the smallest of them, rarely getting longer than 4 inches.

The snakes habits and population are a mystery to us. All we know for sure is that they enjoy eating termites.

Cuvier's dwarf caiman

Photo: Karelj/Wikimedia Commons

Admittedly, this species is large compared to the other reptiles and amphibians on the list. But Cuvier's dwarf caiman is the smallest of the New World crocodilians. Males average about 5.25 feet (1.6 meters) while females rarely grow larger than 4 feet. For comparison's sake, some crocodiles can exceed 20 feet in length.

The caiman is considered a keystone species, meaning that its presence in an ecosystem is a vital component to keeping the ecosystem balanced. It has few predators thanks to its bony scales, and it snacks on piranhas that may otherwise overtake an environment.