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Four new frog species found in the Western Ghats

Kalyan Ray, DH News Service, New Delhi, Jun 20 2017, 15:38 IST
(Clockwise from top left) cepfi, kadar, manoharani and neilcoxi. DH Photo

(Clockwise from top left) cepfi, kadar, manoharani and neilcoxi. DH Photo

Four new species of burrowing frogs have been discovered by Indian researchers in the Western Ghats after five years of extensive field studies.

These frogs belong to the genus Fejervarya, of which only one burrowing frog species was known to the science so far.

The previously known species (Fejervarya rufescens) was considered as 'widely distributed' throughout the Western Ghats as a result of which it was given a ‘Least Concern’ conservation status in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List.

But the new study shows the distribution F.rufescens is restricted to a small region in coastal Karnataka and adjoining parts of Kerala whereas closely related frogs belonging to entirely new species were found in other parts of the Western Ghats.

These frogs were confirmed as new species by using an integrated taxonomic approach that included DNA studies, detailed morphological comparisons and bioacoustics.

“Our study highlights a fairly common group of frogs that is usually found closer to human habitations but still not documented properly,” said Delhi University researcher Sonali Garg who carried out the study.

The past decade witnessed an exponential rise in the number of new amphibian species from the Western Ghats.

Of the total new species of amphibians (1581) described globally between 2006 and 2015, the highest numbers were from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest (182) followed by the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot (159), of which 103 species were described from the Western Ghats.

The number of amphibian species from the Western Ghats has nearly doubled within ten years, making it one of the leading biodiversity hotspots in the world with an unprecedented rate of new frog discoveries.

But unfortunately over 32% of the Western Ghats frogs are threatened with extinction.

Out of the four new species, two (Kadar Burrowing Frog and CEPF Burrowing Frog) face anthropogenic threats, says the published in the June 20 issue of the journal Zootaxa.

“The new finding makes it clear that instead of a single species there are five different species with different conservation requirements,” said team leader S D Biju from Delhi University, who discovered several other new frog species from the Western Ghats.

The New Species:

Kadar Burrowing Frog (Fejervarya kadar) is discovered from Vazachal forest of Kerala and named after the Kadar tribe that lives in the region.
Manoharan’s Burrowing Frog (Fejervarya manoharani) is discovered from Agasthyamala hills in the southern state of Kerala and named after TM Manoharan, the former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of Kerala
CEPF Burrowing Frog (Fejervarya cepfi) is from the popular hill station Amboli in Maharashtra and named after the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (USA).
Neil Cox’s Burrowing Frog (Fejervarya neilcoxi) was found in the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and named after IUCN veteran Neil Cox

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