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12 new frog species spotted

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P. Venugopal

Findings follow 10 years of field study across the Western Ghats

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Flagging the extent of species diversity in the Western Ghats, researchers have reported the discovery of a dozen species of tree frogs from the region.

The discovery by S.D. Biju of Delhi University and Franky Bossuyt of the Free University of Brussels is published in the latest issue of Zoological Journal of Linnean Society, London. The paper is titled ‘Systematics and phylogeny of Philautus Gistel, 1848 (Anura, Rhacophoridae) in the Western Ghats of India, with descriptions of 12 new species.’

A Delhi University release on Tuesday said the findings followed 10 years of field study in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, complemented by laboratory research. The paper is unique for the sheer number of new species described, the release said.

The paper, while making a comprehensive taxonomic revision of the genus Philautus (mostly bush frogs and tree frogs), also reports the rediscovery of a bush frog that was considered extinct. The rediscovered Travancore bush frog (Philautus travancoricus) had not been reported since its discovery more than 100 years ago. It was found now in a highly degraded environment in the Vagamon area of Kottayam district.

The genus Philautus was discovered in India in 1854. Over the 155-year period since then, 32 species under this genus have been reported from the Western Ghats. Dr. Biju has been associated with the discovery of 19 of them, including the 12 reported now. In their paper, he and Dr. Bossuyt, a systematics expert, also report the possible extinction of two of the species reported decades ago.

“This highlights the need for a new conservation strategy for our country. Seemingly small habitat disturbances can wipe out species… Seven of the newly reported species were found in unprotected areas that were forests some time back and are plantations and human habitations now. These species are fast vanishing,” Dr. Biju said.

Photos copyright: S.D. Biju, www.frogindia.org

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