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Five frog species lost and found,45 more on search list

They started out with a list of 50 three months ago and are looking for the other 45.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
February 18, 2011 12:31:32 am

Fluorescent green,with ash blue thighs and black pupils with golden patches,it was believed extinct,or at least “lost since 1874”,till a specimen was found 136 years later in Kodayar,Tamil Nadu.

The bubble nest frog is one of five species “rediscovered” under “Lost! Amphibians of India”,says progamme coordinator S D Biju. They started out with a list of 50 three months ago and are looking for the other 45.

The bubble nest,or Chalazodes,has been listed as critically endangered. The species,it is believed,does not go through a free swimming tadpole state but completes the development inside the egg.

Of the other four species,the dot frog (Ramanella anamalaiensis) was rediscovered after 73 years in Parambikulam,Kerala,the researchers say. Named for the Anamalai Hills in the Southwestern Ghats where it was discovered and last seen in 1937,it was not even a confirmed species because the original specimen was lost; it is listed as data-deficient. The narrow-mouthed frog calls loudly from marshy areas during the monsoon but hides the rest of the year under stones and logs on the forest floor or in tree holes.

Another frog with a single known specimen so far was the Dehradun stream frog (Amolops chakrataensis). That specimen,seen in 1985,provided the only description available: light green with tiny dark spots. The fresh find was in Tiger Falls,Chakrata,Dehradun,the team says.

The silent valley tropical frog,or Micrixalus thampii,had been last seen 30 years ago. It was found in a rubbish bin at a field station in the Silent Valley National Park of Kerala,researchers said,adding they subsequently observed several more specimens under the leaves in a forest in the Kunthi river watershed.

The fifth “rediscovery”,that of the elegant tropical frog (Micrixalus elegans),came in a forest stream bed in Kempholey,Karnataka. Here again,the original specimen,found 73 years earlier,had been lost. The frog calls from edges of rivers where it presumably breeds.

The team that found the five species included Ganesan R Seshadri (bubble nest),S P Vijayakumar and Anil Kumar (dot),Sonali Garg and other Delhi University students (Dehradun stream),Don Church and Robin Moore (silent valley tropical) and K V Gururaja and K P Dinesh (elegant tropical frog),says Bjiu,Professor in Environment Biology at Delhi University (DU),himself involved in most of the “rediscoveries”.

Amphibians are considered the vanguard of the ecosystem but one in three species are at risk of disappearing. Of the 321 amphibian species described from India,13 per cent are lost.

“These five little hoppers are the lucky ones to be rediscovered. We don’t know whether the remaining 45 Indian lost species will be as lucky,” Biju said.

A team of 150 in 15 teams are pursuing the 45 species. Whatever is known about most of them comes from century-old original descriptions,sometimes with sketchy illustrations.

The campaign,launched at DU,involves International Union for Conversation of Nature’s Amphibian Specialist Group,Conservation International,Global Wildlife Conservation,the Government of India,London’s National History Museum and Arya Vidyapeeth College,Assam.

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