Scientists discover tiny new frogs in India

SD Biju

Scientists found the frogs in the Western Ghats mountain range in India, which is home to hundreds of globally threatened species of plants and animals. "One-third of amphibians in the Western Ghats are already threatened". It was conducted by two Delhi University-based researchers in the Western Ghats. Now the total number of known night frog species has increased to 35, of which 20 percent are diminutive in size. These four smaller frogs are believed to be among the smallest in all of the country.

Vijayan's Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus pulivijayani), a miniature-sized frog discovered from Agasthyamala hills in the Western Ghats, India. Garg and her fellow scientists collected the seven newly discovered frog species in 2002, and between 2013 and 2016.

The new frog species all belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs.

They inhabit the forests of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and were found to make insect-like chirping noises during the night.

"It was extremely hard to locate the calling individuals because they were always hiding under thick ground vegetation and leaf litter", Garg recalled.

"The miniature species are locally abundant and fairly common but they have probably been overlooked due to their extremely small size, secretive habitats and insect-like calls", said Sonali Garg, who undertook the study as part of her PHD research. Some night frogs can be up to 10 times bigger than their minute cousins. It can attain a size of about 38 mm.

But it's still likely to intensify a question that Husna Haq, reporting for The Christian Science Monitor, posed in 2015: "How did these frogs get so small?" "Habitat destruction, fragmentation and loss are major threats for amphibians not just in India, but all over the world".

Nicole F. Angeli, a herpetologist and research associate at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, agreed that this sort of research is crucial to the future of conservation efforts in the Western Ghats and beyond.

Over the past decade, scientists have described 103 new species from the Western Ghats, including the unusual Indian purple frog, which is found nowhere else on Earth and is the only living frog in an evolutionary lineage dating back to the Jurassic. "At least five of the seven new species are vulnerable because they lie outside the protected regions", Das said.

Out of the seven new species, four of them come under the miniature size category, roughly small enough to fit on an adult humans thumbnail.

New miniature frog species were spotted on the leaf litter of a damp forest. The Athirappilly Night Frog was discovered near the Athirappilly waterfalls, which is a tourist spot, while the Sabarimala Night Frog was found near the Sabarimala pilgrimage centre.

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