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7 new frog species reported from Western Ghats and Sri Lanka

A team of researchers from India and Sri Lanka has discovered seven new species of Golden-backed frogs in the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka global biodiversity hot spot, throwing new light on the highly-distinct and diverse fauna in the two countries.

The results of the decade-long survey published in the latest issue of Contributions to Zoology , an international journal brought out by the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands, show that the frogs in Sri Lanka and those in India belong to distinctly different species. It was earlier believed that some of the Golden-backed frogs ( Genus Hylarana ) found in the two countries were of the same species.

The team, led by Delhi University’s Prof. S.D. Biju, used DNA techniques and morphological evidence as tools to identify species and understand the frogs’ distribution.

The survey yielded 14 distinct Golden-backed frogs, with seven new species, including one ( Hylarana serendipi ) from Sri Lanka. Of the six new species from the Western Ghats, four ( H. doni, H.urbis, H.magna and H sreeni ) are found in Kerala and one each in Karnataka ( H. indica ) and Maharashtra ( H.caesari ).

“The distribution pattern of the species highlights the need to reassess the conservation status of the amphibians and work out separate conservation strategies,” Prof. Biju said.

The study also indicates that frogs in the region are under threat due to habitat destruction. Interestingly, one of the newly-named species, Hylarana urbis , had remained unnoticed though its habitat is in urban areas in and around Kochi and is under threat due to human activity.

Globally, Golden-backed frogs are one of the most widely-distributed group of frogs. Their distribution extends across Africa, Asia and Australia.

The land bridge connection between the Indian subcontinent and the island of Sri Lanka that existed 50,000 years ago led to the assumption that two Golden-backed frog species ( Hylarana aurantiaca and H temporalis ) were common to both the countries.

At present, there are nearly 200 known amphibian species in the Western Ghats, of which 100 were discovered only in the last 15 years.

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