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Chota,Jayrami,Kani… 12 new frogs discovered in Western Ghats

Published in Zoological Journal of Linnean Society; first report of 12 frog species in a single issue

Written by Uma Vishnu | New Delhi |
February 4, 2009 1:54:31 am

If they could,all the frogs of the world would croak a toast to this. Twelve new species of frogs have been discovered in the jungles of the Western Ghats,among the largest such reported finds,and a giant leap for amphibian research.

S D Biju of Delhi University and Franky Bossyut of the Amphibian Evolution Lab,Vrije University,Brussels,have published their findings in the latest issue of the Zoological Journal of Linnean Society,London,one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific journals. This is the first time that 12 frog species finds have been reported in a single issue of a publication.

The discoveries are the result of 10 years of extensive field studies in the Western Ghats. Biju,a reader and associate professor at DU’s School of Environmental Studies,says he hopes it will help people understand that frogs,one of the oldest living land vertebrates,“are as much a custodian of the earth as humans are”.

The discoveries include the ‘rediscovery’ of a lost species. The Travancore bushfrog (Philautus travancoricus) had not been seen in over a century,and was considered extinct. But one rainy night in Bodinayakannur,a town on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border,Biju saw the little red frog as he sat croaking under a tall bush on the fringes of a tea plantation.

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The new discoveries — all bright tree or shrub frogs — are Philautus chota,Philautus jayarami,Philautus marki,Philautus sushili,Philautus munnarensis,Philautus kani,Philautus kaikatti,Philautus chromasynchysi,Philautus chlorosomma,Philautus amboli and Philautus akroparallagi.

Biju has come up with the names,and had a little fun in the process. Philautus chota was named for its size — a puny creature at around 16 mm. The “most beautiful” Philautus jayarami was named after K Jayaram,a Chennai-based wildlife photographer who has travelled extensively with Biju. “I name all my frogs. That is one of the few privileges I have,” Biju joked.

He said: “Frogs are a part of our biodiversity but are hardly documented. Only the tiger and the elephant get talked about. But it’s important to know that frogs have lasted millions of years (they probably hopped around the feet of dinosaurs and watched the mighty reptiles disappear from the face of the Earth) but are now disappearing because humans recklessly interfere with their habitat.”

But for now,the discovery of the 12 new frogs — all from the genus Philautus — calls for celebration. Indraneil Das of Sarawak University,Malaysia,an acknowledged authority on frogs,said,“It’s a big discovery. It doesn’t happen too often in India. The discovery helps understand biodiversity and the need for conservation.”

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