Nine tiny new frogs add to Western Ghats inventory

Raorchestes emeraldi  

The inventory of amphibian diverstiy in the Western Ghats has just got longer with the discovery of nine new species of bush frogs in this mountain range.

Some as tiny as a thumbnail, other brightly coloured or plain slimy, each of these creatures adds important insights into the evolutionary biodiversity of the Western Ghats, says Kartik Shanker of the Indian Institute of Science and co-author of a paper published in international journal Zootaxa .

Researchers trekked through the Western Ghats during the rainy season (when bush frogs are most active) training their ear to tell tale bush frog calls and scouring tree trunks for them.

Bush frogs are miniature frogs distributed throughout south and southeast Asia.

They then used genetics, geography, morphology and acoustics to separate the frogs into “lineages” (descendants of a common ancestor that lived a million or more years ago).

There could be at least 15 new species of bush frogs waiting to be discovered adding to the over 50 species known from the Western Ghats, said Dr. Shanker.

“What is really exciting for us is taking this forward to understand the ecological, evolutionary and biogeographic processes of diversification that have led to this spectacular diversity and endemism,” lead author and post doctoral fellow at national Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), S.P. Vijayakumar explained in a press-note.