Animals photo

It might not be able to grow a thicker skin, but the newly discovered frog Pristimantis mutabilis and its relatives can change their skin’s texture.

In a new paper published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society this week, researchers announced the discovery of P. mutabilis and its strange texture-changing habit.

The tiny frog, no larger than a fingernail, blends into moss by making its skin prickly and rough, textured like its surroundings in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. (The mechanism by which it does this is still unknown.) When placed on a smooth background, like a white backdrop for photography, the frog straightens itself out, becoming glossy once again. The whole shape-shifting routine takes just about three minutes.

“The spines and coloration help them blend into mossy habitats, making it hard for us to see them,” researcher Katharine Krynak said. “But whether the texture really helps them elude predators still needs to be tested.”

The researchers also reported that some of the frog’s much larger cousins, the already discovered Prismantis sobetes, also had the same shape-shifting ability, which hadn’t been noticed before.