Found: New frog in old hot spot
A thumbnail-sized star-speckled frog species with several features resembling frogs found in South America and Central Africa discovered in the Western Ghats in Wayanad, Kerala, is a unique addition to a series of frog species unearthed in the biodiversity hot spot.
A team of scientists from George Washington University in the US and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and Zoological Society of India (ZSI), have named the frog Astrobatrachus kurichiyana after its constellation-like markings and the indigenous community living of Kurichiyarmala, the hill range in Kerala where it was found.
“We know of nine families of frogs in the Western Ghats but this one does not resemble any of them. The toe-tip of this frog is triangular like some frogs found in South America; all the other species in the area have roundish, arch or disc-like toe-tips. The bright orange colour of its underside is found in frogs in Central Africa,” said KP Dinesh, one of the co-authors of the paper and scientist at ZSI.
“The frog separated from its near relative almost 60 to 70 million years ago, the genetic analysis has revealed. Its closest relatives are a two genera Nyctibatrachidae that has about 30 species of frogs and Lankanectinae that has two species,” said co-author Kartik Shanker, associate professor at the Centre for Ecological Science at IISc.
This is close to the period when India separated from Madagascar and can help us understand the biological history of the time period.
The starry dwarf frog was discovered as a part of an expedition looking for new species in Western Ghats between 2009 and 2013 by covering multiple elevations, rainfall regimes, habitats and hill ranges. Between 40 and 50 new species of frogs, snakes and lizards were discovered — of these around 15 have been already identified.
The discovery was published on Tuesday in the journal PeerJ.