Belonging to the genus Litoria and part of the Litoria caerulea species complex, the Litoria mira is a tree frog known for its distinct ‘chocolate’ colour. Discovered by a research team led by Griffith University, in New Guinea, the term mira was assigned to it due the surprising nature of its discovery. Specifically, it was spotted by Australian scientist Steve Richards in 2016, and subsequent tests by him led to the revelation of the frog belonging to a new species. However, the confirmation of the new species was announced in a paper published in late May of this year by Richards and Paul Oliver (from Griffith and Queensland Universities), who laid out details of their genetic analysis in the Australian Journal of Zoology. A close relative of the Litoria mira is the Litoria cerulean, or the common green tree frog. Without detailed examination, both these species appear largely similar.
The mira species can mainly be distinguished from the other species in the same genus by its moderately large size, webbing on its limbs which themselves are short and firm, along with a small violet patch of skin on the edge of its eyes. The similarities with the green tree frog, are attributed to the historical linking of Australia and New Guinea during the late Tertiary period, and the two landmasses are presently separated by the Torres Strait. The site of the mira’s discovery is covered with rainforests. It has been reported that resolving the biotic interchange between the two formerly linked regions, is key to fully understanding how the flora and fauna in the region have evolved and interacted with each other. The frog was discovered in a rainforest swamp where malarial mosquitoes thrive, trees are spikey and crocodiles are abundant. These factors, in addition to the lack of roads, are being attributed to the delay in the discovery of the species. The popularity that the species garnered is due to the significant similarity between its chocolate hued skin and the ‘chocolate frog’ in the fiction series – Harry Potter.