New legless amphibian species found

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NEW FIND: A new species of legless amphibian discovered by a research team.
NEW FIND: A new species of legless amphibian discovered by a research team.

Panaji: Researchers have found a new legless amphibian species. The significant discovery at Keri village, 20 km from the Mhadei dam site in Goa, highlights the wealth of biodiversity in the Western Ghats.

The earthworm-like creature has been named Geneophis goansis. It is the first species to be named after Goa, which is tucked in the lap of the Sahyadri hill ranges.

The construction of a dam across the Mhadei river on the Goa-Karnataka border has sparked a row between the neighbours. The dispute is now in the Supreme Court.

"It is... a brand new species,'' Nirmal Kulkarni, an environmentalist and a team member, said. The team also comprises Dr. Gopalkrishna Bhat (Professor of Zoology, MGM College, Udupi), Dinesh K. (Zoological Survey of India, Kochi), Nirmal Kulkarni (Goan researcher) and Prashanth P. (Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, Karnataka).

"We came across the two specimens... in 2004. Since then we have been on the lookout for further sightings to confirm the findings," Mr. Kulkarni said. They finally spotted the species under rotting vegetation during the last monsoon. ``Molecular studies confirmed that this is a new species, which adds to the existing seven species of the genus Geniophis which is endemic to the Western Ghats," a team member said.

The discovery "will further support the reasoning behind the opposition to any human development in these hill ranges bordering Goa-Maharashtra and Karnataka," one expert said. "This discovery further proves the need for extreme caution in dealing with the region. Any wrong act will endanger these species, which would be forever lost to mankind and science," added Mr. Kulkarni.

The environmentalists pointed out that projects like the Mhadei dam would severely affect the biodiversity of the Sahyadri ranges, which have remained largely pristine. PTI



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