Seven new endemic species of Nyctibatrachus, or night frogs have been discovered after six years of intensive field surveys and collection of specimens in forests of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in Southern Western Ghats, India by a team of researchers from the University of Delhi and the Kerala Forest Department.
Four out of the seven new species in the study titled “Seven new species of Night Frogs (Anura,
Nyctibatrachidae) from the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot of India, with remarkably high diversity of diminutive forms” are among the smallest known Indian frogs, (12.2–15.4 mm in length). Other large-sized frogs in the genus (up to 77 mm in length), which are adapted to live in forest streams.
The adult specimens were collected during both day and night and mostly by locating calling males and sometimes through opportunistic surveys. The discovery of amphibian species is of great importance and growing evidence that the Western Ghats is a globally recognized biodiversity and amphibian hotspot.
Therefore, studies that identify and document species diversity will strengthen the understanding required for conservation prioritization of threatened amphibians of the Western Ghats.
Seven new discoveries:-
A. Radcliffe’s Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus radcliffei)
B. Athirappilly Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus athirappillyensis)
C. Kadalar Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus webilla)
D. Sabarimala Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus sabarimalai )
E. Vijayan’s Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus pulivijayani)
F. Manalar Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus manalari)
G. Robin Moore’s Night Frog.
The study brings up the number of recognized Nyctibatrachus species from 28 to 35. It is a clear indication that several more species are yet to be discovered and formally described in Western Ghats studies.
“These frogs are usually easy to overlook not only because of the small size but also due to their secretive terrestrial habitats (usually under wet soil and dense ground vegetation) and insect-like calls. We also found these species to be fairly common and abundant at their respective collection localities” as mentioned by Sonali Garg, one of the lead authors of the research paper.
Some of the observations stated in the study are the threats faced by the species, “The population status of the newly described species is also likely to be of concern, which were collected outside National parks and sanctuaries (except N. sabarimalai). Nyctibatrachus radcliffei and N. webilla were found inside private or state-owned plantation areas facing threats such as habitat disturbance, modification, and fragmentation.
The type locality of N.athirappillyensis is in close vicinity of the Athirappilly waterfall, which despite being inside a reserved forest is disturbed by anthropogenic activities.Besides this, all the new species are currently known only from their type localities, which are restricted to the southern Western Ghats.
The researchers used integrated evidence from external morphology, molecular as well as bioacoustics data, to recognize the new species.
The Western Ghats is indeed a global biodiversity hotspot with spectacular amphibian diversity and endemism. While extensive work of documenting frogs should continue, one should also focus on their conservation requirements.