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Twelve new frog species found in Western Ghats

The Western Ghats region in the country, a global biodiversity hotspot, has opened up more of its secrets — this time a dozen species of night frogs hitherto unknown to science.

S.D. Biju of the University of Delhi and researchers from Bombay Natural History Society, Zoological Survey of India and Vrije University in Brussels, published the new finds in the latest issue of the international journal of zoological taxonomy ‘Zootaxa’.

Their paper also announces the rediscovery of three night frogs thought to be extinct for the last several decades.

In a press release on Thursday, the University of Delhi said the rediscovered Coorg Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus sanctipalustris) had not been seen by researchers since it was reported 91 years ago. The Kempholey Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus kempholeyensis) and Forest Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus sylvaticus), the other two rediscoveries, had eluded sighting since they were reported 75 years ago.

The 12 new species were identified following a revision of the night frog genus Nyctibatrachus from specimens collected from the Western Ghats forests spread along the States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra during fieldwork over the last 20 years, the press release said.

The researchers have named the new species as Nyctibatrachus acanthodermis, Nyctibatrachus danieli, Nyctibatrachus devein, Nyctibatrachus gavi, Nyctibatrachus grandis, Nyctibatrachus indraneili, Nyctibatrachus jog, Nyctibatrachus periyar, Nyctibatrachus pillaii, Nyctibatrachus poocha, Nyctibatrachus shiradi and Nyctibatrachus vrijeuni. (The name Nyctibatrachus is composed of two words — ‘nycti’ derived from the Greek ‘nux’ meaning night and ‘batrachus’ meaning frog).

These new discoveries take the number of new species described by herpetologist Dr. Biju and his colleagues over the last eight years from specimens collected from the Western Ghats during two decades of field work to 45. One of the earlier discoveries of the team led by him, a purple burrowing frog given the name Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis belonging to an entirely new family of frogs, was celebrated by the scientific world as a “once in a century find”.

Six of the 12 new species are from unprotected, highly degraded habitats. The night frogs require unique habitats — either fast flowing streams or moist forest floor for breeding and survival. They fertilise and reproduce without physical contact. The paper reporting these finds also describes the reproductive strategy and parental care habits of six of the new species.

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