Biologists spot 14 new species of dancing frogs in W-Ghats

Biologists spot 14 new species of dancing frogs in W-Ghats

Dancing in the rain has been part of their mating ritual for centuries, which they did without much of their existence being known to the human world.

However, thanks to some relentless research by Indian biologists, existence of several new varieties of rare Indian dancing frogs has come to light.

Searching the Western Ghats for almost 12 years, the biologists have recorded previously unknown 14 species of the dancing frog.

Majority of the male of the species display the habit of foot-flagging that appears remarkably similar to dancing. They do this to attract the females.

“Out of the 14 new species, we found eight of them use dancing as a mating ritual. Two other species have a different courtship behaviour,” team leader S D Biju from Delhi University told Deccan Herald. Researchers, however, could not stay longer to observe the courtship manners of the rest of the new species.

Scientifically known as Micrixalidae, the family of Indian dancing frogs comprises a single genus Micrixalus evolved approximately 85 million years ago, and is found in the Western Ghats.

Previously only 11 such species were known to the world.

“Though all are rare to find, they are locally abundant,” said K V Gururaja from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Gururaja, along with Biju and his colleagues at Delhi University and National Centre for Cell Sciences in Pune, explored the forests for months to spot these tiny creatures.

Their report – published in the Ceylone Journal of Science (Biological Sciences) – has revealed more than two-fold increase in the number of known frog species from this ancient frog family.

The Western Ghats is a global biodiversity hot spot with high species richness, where 75 new amphibian species were discovered in the last 15 years. Several of them were new frog species.

Asked in what other ways the dancing frogs differed from other Indian variety, Gururaja said: “One of them (M.kottigeharensis) creates a hollow space inside a stream, lays eggs, dances over the eggs, and clutches to cover it with small gravel. This is a unique breeding behaviour among frogs.”

Discovery of the new species comes amid fears that the amphibians are threatened as a result of shrinking forest areas.

Out of 25 dancing frogs, seven species (nearly 30 per cent) are known to exist in degraded habitats outside of the protected areas.

Twelve more of them, or roughly 58 per cent, have several unprotected populations living in degraded habitats.

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