A team led by Prof S D Biju, a herpetologist at the University of Delhi, identified the 12 new species after a revision of the Night frog genus Nyctibatrachus in the Western Ghats, a region known as a global biodiversity hotspot for wildlife richness and endemism.
The team, which comprised of researchers from the Bombay Natural History Society, the Zoological Survey of India and Belgium's Vrije University, used morphological traits and molecular markers to recognize the new species.
The findings also included the rediscovery of three lost frogs -- Coorg Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus sanctipalustris), which was last seen some 91 years ago; the Kempholey Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus kempholeyensis) and Forest Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus sylvaticus) which had both eluded sighting since they were reported 75 years ago.
According to Prof Biju, the 12 new species, described in Zootaxa journal, is exclusively seen in the Western Ghats parts of India and one of the ancient groups of frogs which lived along with Dinosaurs.
"Night frogs (Nyctibatrachus) which are exclusively seen in Western Ghats have unique breeding behaviour. These frogs successfully complete their breeding without any physical contact between male and female," Prof Biju told PTI.
Describing frogs as environmental barometers, he said the amphibians are very sensitive to subtle changes in their environment.
"They (frogs) indicate the state of environmental health. Their conservation is extremely vital not only from amphibians point of view but also from the perspective of overall nature conservation," he said.
The 12 new species discovered were named 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, Biju said.
These discoveries bring the number of new species found by Biju and his team to an astounding 45. Past findings included the famed "Purple Frog" belonging to a new family of frogs, called Nasikabatrachidae; the diminutive Nyctibatrachus minimus, the smallest tetrapod in India and the first Indian canopy frog, called Raorchestes nerostagona.
According to the researchers, amphibians lived alongside dinosaurs, which have long since disappeared, but amazingly frogs continue to exist. "But, unfortunately, their existence is precarious. If the present trends in extinction continue, many frogs could disappear forever," he said.
Noting that 32 per cent of the world's amphibian species are threatened with extinction, Biju said in every 20 minutes, a species is being pushed to extinction and more than 1000 acres of forests are destroyed.
"The major threat is massive habitat loss. Taking any conservation effort for amphibians will indirectly conserve several other important biodiversities of that area," he said.
"But there is still a small ray of hope for a brighter future for frogs. To begin, they have lived on earth for a period that is 5,000 times longer than that of humans. Also, there is a rapidly growing interest in frogs among scientists and nature lovers alike," he added.