A frog faces extinction

Specialists in amphibians are exploring the shoal grasslands of Munnar for a frog that’s more threatened than the tiger.

A survey for the Toad-skinned frog Indirana phrynoderma, which has been classified as Critically Endangered in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature began last week. A frog census, which researchers claim as a unique event, was launched on December 30 under the joint auspices of the Munnar Division of the Kerala Forest Department and the Conservation Research Group (CRG).

What makes the species and the census important in the conservation perspective is that it “is known only from a restricted area in the Anamalai Hills of the Western Ghats in India. It is found at an elevation of around 500 metres above sea level,” according to the Red List. Though the species has “also been reported from Maharashtra,” the records require further investigation, it said. The “population of the species is severely fragmented. The terrestrial species is associated with leaf-litter in tropical moist forest. It presumably breeds like other members of the genus, with larvae being found on wet rocks next to streams,” according to the Red List.

Tigers are in the endangered category whereas these frogs are facing further threat of extinction and are included in the Critically Endangered List, explained Sethu Parvathy of the group.

The frog is restricted within 100 sq km and is found only in small fragments of tropical rainforests of Munnar. This census is the first of its kind in India to focus on a single amphibian species since currently only the populations of larger-sized mammals like elephants and tigers are annually monitored, said Arun Kanagavel in a communication.

Monitoring the frog population would throw light on the status of the shola-grassland ecosystems of Munnar as amphibians are excellent indicators of habitat quality, he said.

The species resembles a toad and could be easily identifiable with its black, speckled underbelly and elongated finger and toe tips. Though small in size, measuring just 4.5cm, the toad-skinned frog is very specialised and has its own, very particular set of habitat requirements. It is a terrestrial species found associated with leaf litter at high elevation tropical rainforests, explained Mr. Kanagavel.

It is estimated that there are 36 species of frogs in Munnar. Of these, nearly 50 per cent are threatened by extinction. The Anamalai gliding frog ( Rhacophorus pseudomalabaricus), Green eyed bush frog ( Raorchestes chlorosomma), Raorchestes griet, Raorchestes munnarensis and the Resplendent Shrub Frog Raorchestes resplendens) are the critically endangered species in the region, says the IUCN Red List.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 2:48:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/A-frog-faces-extinction/article13978856.ece

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