Frog Amber

China-Florida Scientists Found Unknown Ancient Frog Species


On June 14, 2018, a team of scientists from Florida and China unveiled findings of a new frog species in Myanmar as old as dinosaurs: Electrorana Limoae. The four amber fossils from Hukawng Valley date back to the Cretaceous period, roughly 99 million years ago—the oldest frog fossil of its kind in the world. More importantly, the fossils shed new light on the little-known history of frogs. One third of the world’s frogs live in rainforests, but there was no fossil record of these amphibians in the tropics until now.

This discovery is the result of close collaboration between Florida scientists and their Chinese counterparts in all stages of the project. The team included Lida Xing (China University of Geosciences), Ming Bai (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Edward Stanley, and David Blackburn (Florida Museum of Natural History). Major funding came from the National Geographic Society and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

The largest fossil is 2.2 centimeters (0.87 inches) long, and contains the frog's skull, spine, and most of its limbs. With help from his colleagues, Dr. Blackburn, whose role was to scan and describe the fossils, created an illustration of the Cretaceous tropical frog’s appearance in 3-D.

China and Florida’s educational exchange continues to flourish amidst tensions in US-China trade relations. In the same month, scientists from the University of South Florida, University of Kentucky, and Central South University in Changsha, China, found a promising way to make anti-infective drugs from marine sponges. Florida State University recently forged a partnership for social work research and education with East China University of Science and Technology. This came only months after California and Tsinghua University kickstarted their joint climate change research. There are more Chinese students in Florida than in any other Southeastern US state, contributing $243 million to the Sunshine State in 2016. Scientific cooperation continues to be a promising avenue for US-China relations.

Cathy Dao is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington. She is currently an undergraduate at Stanford University, studying Political Science and Science, Technology and Society.