From tiny frogs that can sit on a thumbnail to a mysterious species of a frog that appears for less than a week for breeding activities and lives a secretive lifestyle for the rest of the year, Sonali Garg, a researcher at Delhi University , has described 50 new species of frogs from India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Not only is Dr. Garg India’s first woman researcher to discover 50 new frog species, earlier this week, she was awarded the prestigious Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Postdoctoral Fellowship to work at Harvard University.
At Harvard, she will work at the Museum of Comparative Zoology in affiliation with the Department of Organism and Evolutionary Biology. Founded in 1859, the Museum of Comparative Zoology is a centre for research and education focused on the comparative relationships of animal life.
Speaking to The Hindu , the researcher said that her 50 discoveries were made over a period of eight years from 2014 to 2021. “What these discoveries tell us is how unique India’s biodiversity is. We hear about the wonderful biodiversity of the Amazon forests but don’t really think about our own country’s biodiversity. Moreover, frogs are such a small group of animals and they have such a wonderful diversity but are often overlooked,” Dr. Garg said. She highlighted that most of the new discoveries of frogs in India are from the biodiversity hotspots of the Western Ghats and northeast India.
Dr. Garg has studied frogs across India and outside India. She secured her Ph.D. from the Department of Environmental Studies, University of Delhi, under the mentorship of Professor S. D. Biju., who is often referred to as “the frogman of India”.
“There are about 430 to 440 amphibian species in India and Prof. Biju has discovered about one-fourth, more than a hundred, of these frog species,” she said, adding that Prof. Biju has not only been her mentor but also inspiration to work in the area of herpetology. The researcher maintained that at Harvard she would continue to work on species from India.
A statement from Department of Environmental Studies, University of Delhi, said: “Sonali has described three new genera and resolved numerous century-old taxonomic puzzles. Sonali’s research largely focuses on unraveling the unique diversity of frogs, study of their evolutionary relationships using DNA, and biogeography to decipher patterns of historical and present-day distributions.”