Researchers from University of Delhi have named a newly-discovered frog species after former vice chancellor and renowned plant geneticist Prof. Deepak Pental.
The new species was discovered from the globally recognised Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot that extends along the southwest coast of the Indian peninsula.
The discovery was made during a comprehensive study on a considerably large, common, yet a confusing group of Indian frogs — genus Minervarya (common name: Minervaryan frogs). The study was carried out over a period of nearly 10 years, according to Prof. S.D. Biju, Head of the Department of Environmental Studies, and Dr. Sonali Garg, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Delhi.
Their findings and description of the species are published in a scientific article titled ‘DNA Barcoding and Systematic Review of Minervaryan Frogs (Dicroglossidae: Minervarya) of Peninsular India: Resolution of a taxonomic conundrum with description of a new species’ in the international journal Asian Herpetological Research .
The newly-discovered species, named Minervarya Pentali , is endemic to the southern Western Ghats.
“We discovered it on wayside vegetation at multiple localities in Kerala and Tamil Nadu while surveying amphibians during the monsoon season. This species is also among the smallest known Minervaryan frogs, which is probably one of the reasons it was overlooked until now,” says Dr. Sonali Garg, the lead author of the study.
“It is a great privilege to name a frog species after Prof. Deepak Pental, the former vice chancellor of University of Delhi, in appreciation of his tremendous support and encouragement for setting up of Systematics Lab at University of Delhi, where research leading to the discovery and description of nearly one-fourth of all known Indian amphibians has been carried out,” said Prof. Biju.
The new species – belonging to the family Dicroglossidae – was identified based on multiple criteria, such as external morphology, DNA and calling pattern. The study also resolved the identity and taxonomic status of all known members of the genus from peninsular India, in addition to clarifying the geographical ranges of species, and providing numerous new distribution records based on morphologically and genetically identified samples from a vast region, according to the researchers.
'Need special conservation efforts'
The researchers have called for special conservation efforts for the region, which is known for its rich biodiversity.
According to Prof. S.D. Biju and Dr. Sonali Garg, the amphibian diversity in this region is particularly remarkable as more than half of nearly 230 species of all known Indian species (~450 species) are found in the Western Ghats. Besides, over 90% of these are endemic to this region, which means they are not found anywhere else in the world.
The researchers said discoveries of such new species not only re-emphasise the uniqueness and endemism in Western Ghats' amphibians, but also add to the growing inventory of this region's diverse amphibian fauna.
‘’We are losing precious habitats that are home to many unique and endemic species. We need to protect the Western Ghats in order to conserve these species before they are lost forever," they added.
The new species, Minervarya Pentali (Pental's Minervaryan frog), was discovered from wayside vegetation, very much inside and around towns and cities. Habitat loss, modification, and other anthropogenic threats can lead to a population decline or complete wiping out of this newly discovered species, they said.