Delhi University researchers found seven species of miniature frogs which are smaller than a child’s thumbnail in the Western Ghats with vividly different traits of insect-like calls and secretive habitats. Unlike other frogs which are active during the night time, these frogs are active both in night and day time. Out of seven species, four measure just 12.2 to 15.4 mm.
Prof SD Biju, who led the study for five years in the Western Ghats told PTI, "Out of the seven new species, five are facing considerable anthropogenic threats and require immediate conservation prioritisation," he said. Their study, titled "Seven new species of Night Frogs from the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot of India, with remarkably high diversity of diminutive forms", was published in PeerJ, a peer-reviewed open access journal.
Sonali Garg, who undertook this study as part of her PhD research at University of Delhi, said, "The miniature species are locally abundant and fairly common but they have probably been overlooked because of their extremely small size, secretive habitats and insect-like calls." These seven new species are described as Nyctibatrachus athirappillyensis sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus manalari sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus pulivijayani sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus radcliffei sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus robinmoorei sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus sabarimalai sp. nov. and Nyctibatrachus webilla sp. nov.
Unlike other frogs in the Nyctibatrachus genus (Night frogs) that are found in drains and streams, the new miniature frogs were found under damp forest leaf litter or marsh vegetation. The Night Frog genus earlier had 28 recognised species of which only three were miniatures measuring less than 18 mm. With the addition of newly-found species, the number will go up to 35 and 20% of the known species will be diminutive in size, said the report.
Among the new species, six are currently known to be geographically restricted to regions south of Palghat gap in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and one is probably endemic to high-elevation mountain streams slightly northward of the gap in Tamil Nadu and four of the new new species are among the smallest known Indian frogs.
Last time similar new frog species were added in 2012 when researchers in New York City found new leopard frog species in ponds and marshes-sometimes within view of the Statue of Liberty. They referred them as "Rana sp. nov.," meaning "new frog species", pending a scientific name. The scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles; Rutgers University; the University of California, Davis and the University of Alabama, in their publication in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, used DNA data to compare the new frog to all other leopard frog species in the region.
Find the miniature frog on a one rupee coin