New species of frogs were discovered by a team of biodiversity researchers led by Dr. Anil Zachariah, Veterinary Surgeon, Dept of Animal Husbandry, during their recent exploration in the Western Ghats.

The discovery, published in the latest issue of the Biosystamatica, an international journal on animal taxonomy, ecology and zoo-geography, is a joint effort by the team of voluntary researchers and naturalists undertaken with the active help of the Zoological Survey of India. The team includes Prof. E. Kunhikrishnan, C. Radhakrishnan, K.P. Dinesh, Muhamed Jafer Palot, Sandeep Das, David V Raju, S Kalesh and C.K Vishnudas, apart from Dr. Anil Zachariah.

The discovery shows that the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, still has many new species of amphibians waiting to be discovered.

It was found that the newly-found nine species belonged to the genus Raorchestes and one to the genus Polypedates (family Rhacophoridae). They were discovered in the hill ranges of Southern Western Ghats after several expeditions spanning the last few years. Four species were from Bonacaud, Thiruvananthapuram district; two from Kadalar estate, Idukki; one from Gavi, Pathanamthitta district; one from Ooty, Nilgiris, and one from Naduvattam, Nilgiris.

Six are bush frogs, one is a canopy bush frog and two species are associated with bamboo reeds. With the new species of frog of Rhacophoridae family discovered now, the total number of species of frogs known under genus Polypedates from Western Ghats has come to four, and from India eleven, till date. The genus Raorchestes is, however, restricted to Western Ghats only, with 30 known species till 2010, said Dr. Anil Zachariah.

The new species of frogs discovered are named after outstanding zoologists and conservationists: Polypedates bijui is named after Dr. S.D. Biju, Delhi University; Raorchestes agasthyaensis, after Agasthyamalai, the locality being an important part of the Agastyamalai Biosphere Reserve; Raorchestes crustai, after the Latin term ‘crusta’ meaning ‘bark’, which refers to the microhabitat preference of this canopy frog; Raorchestes johnceei, after late Prof. John C. Jacob (who was popularly known as ‘Johncee’); Raorchestes kadalarensis, named after the locality Kadalar; Raorchestes manohari, named after T. M. Manoharan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Kerala; Raorchestes ravii, named in memory of late Ravi Chandran, an enthusiastic nature lover from Wayanad who first found out the species and was a companion in many field expeditions of the research team; Raorchestes theuerkaufi, named after Wolfgang Theuerkauf, an ardent naturalist and Botanist, Director of Gurukula Botanical Garden, Periya, Wayanad, Kerala; Raorchestes thodai, a species found from Ooty, is named after the indigenous tribal community “thoda” of the Nilgiris; and Raorchestes uthamani, a small pinkish yellow bush frog found inhabiting in the high altitude (around 1000m) reed patches is named after two eminent conservationists, bird photographer P.K. Uthaman and Forest officer K.V Uthaman for their interest and support in nature conservation.

Interestingly, the study was conducted without funding from any agencies, but was carried out by the voluntary efforts of the researchers and nature enthusiasts through long years of dedicated work.

Frogs all over the world is facing high risk of extinction due to climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. The new discovery points to the hidden biodiversity wealth of the Western Ghats, which calls for high level research and conservation efforts in the region.

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