Four new species of horned frogs found in Northeast

Four new species of horned frogs found in Northeast

Megophrys oreocrypta, immature, from Meghalaya.

An Indian and British team of biologists have discovered four new species of horned frogs in the Northeast, ending a 15-year confusion on the amphibians' nomenclature.

The four new species have been named as the Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys himalayana), the Garo white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys oreocrypta), the Yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys flavipunctata), and the Giant Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys periosa).

They are named horned frogs because of the fleshy horn-like projection on the upper eyelids.

The smallest among the four forest dwelling frogs is the Yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog (5.7–7.5 cm) while the largest is the Giant Himalayan horned frog (7.1–11.2 cm), making the latter the largest out of the 15 horned frog species now known to occur in Northeast India.

The discovery is the result of 14 years of research that began by gradually piecing together the missing parts of a puzzle from historical literature and subsequently examining a large number of museum specimens.

This was followed by seven years of fieldwork by the team in some of the wettest and most difficult terrains in the world in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.

The findings published in a monograph in the journal Zootaxa, brings down the curtains on a historical confusion that began with British naturalist Thomas Caverhill Jerdon's discovery of what is known as Jerdon’s white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys major) way back in 1870.

The four new frogs were once thought to be a single wide ranging species called Jerdon’s white-lipped horned frog that was thought to be found in the jungles from Northeast India to South Asia.

But after taking a closer look at the new species using DNA analyses, the scientists from Delhi University, University College Dublin and Natural History Museum, UK, concluded that these creatures actually represent a bunch of species that superficially look quite similar, but differ in some subtle ways.

They are genetically distinct and are found in different regions.

“Northeast India is rich in amphibian diversity but despite being part of two globally recognised biodiversity hotspots (Himalayas and Indo-Burma), it is a neglected region that needs to be explored more,” S D Biju, a professor at Delhi University and one of the team members, said.

“We have found that all species in this study have a smaller geographic range then previously thought. As Asia’s remaining forests are rapidly shrinking due to human activities, and the streams where these frogs reproduce become polluted, the urgency of knowing where these unique species live is vital to protect them from extinction,” Stephan Mahony, lead author of the paper from Dublin, said.

Globally there are 80 known species of horned frogs including 15 found in India. 

Megophrys periosa, male from Arunachal Pradesh 

Megophrys himalayana from Arunachal Pradesh 

Megophrys flavipunctata, female, Meghalaya


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