After 20 years of research, the Bombay Natural History Society, the Zoological Survey of India and the Delhi University scientists have discovered 12 new night frog species.
The new amphibians include the rediscovery of three “lost species” — Kempholey Night Frog rediscovered after 75 years, Coorg Night Frog rediscovered after 91 years and Forest Night Frog rediscovery after 75 years.
The famed Purple Frog (Raorchestes nerostagona), the first Indian Canopy Frog (Rhacophorus lateralis), the first Asian Leaf Folding Frog were also found. Morphological traits and molecular markers were used to recognise the species.
It took almost two decades for the scientists of Bombay Natural History Society, the Zoological Survey of India University of Delhi and Vrije University in Brussels to identify the 12 new night amphibians. The survey was done in the Western Ghats in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.
“The conservation of amphibians is extremely vital not only from the amphibians’’ point of view but also from the perspective of overall nature conservation,” said Professor SD Biju from Delhi University, who played a leading role in this project.
Frogs are environmental barometers as they are very sensitive to subtle changes in their environment. They lived alongside dinosaurs.
But, now, frogs are vanishing rapidly. Nearly, 32% of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
Varadh Giri, scientist from the Bombay Natural History Society, explained how difficult it was to work at night. “Since, 2011, we have worked in different parts of Maharashtra such as Amboli, Koyna, Matheran and Mahabaleshar. We collected four new amphibian species in these locations and handed them over for identification. We are happy that we got something new.” Giri added that old and new species needed to be preserved to maintain bio-diversity.
Six of the 12 new species are highly vulnerable due to their degraded habitats and require immediate attention.
The night frogs require unique habitats — either fast flowing streams or moist forest floors — for breeding and survival. It is the only group of frogs that can achieve fertilisation and reproduction without any physical contact.
“The major threat to amphibians in India is massive habitat loss. Taking any conservation effort for amphibians will indirectly conserve several other important biodiversities of that area,” Biju said.