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article image14 new ‘dancing frog’ species found in India’s Western Ghats

By Sravanth Verma     May 9, 2014 in Environment
Scientists from the University of Delhi have discovered 14 new species of ‘dancing frogs’ in the Western Ghats mountain range in southern India. The study listing the species was published in the Ceylon Journal of Science.
Only 10 species of Indian dancing frog were previously known, belonging to the genus Micrixalus. They are found only in the Western Ghats, evolving around 85 million years ago. These amphibians were given their nickname because of the male frogs’ unique breeding behavior called foot-flagging. They extend and whip their legs out to the side to draw a female’s attention. The frogs developed this behavior because of the continuous sound of water flowing in the perennial hill streams makes it difficult for females to hear the mating croaks of the males. This can be a problem since the sex ratio in these amphibians is around 100 males to 1 female.
However, habitat decline may push these species to extinction. Amphibians are sensitive to local ecology and in many places along the 1600-kilometer long Western Ghats, their habitat is drying due to development. "Back in 2006, we saw maybe 400 to 500 hopping around during the egg-laying season. But each year there were less, and in the end even if you worked very hard it was difficult to catch even 100," the project's lead scientist Sathyabhama Das Biju said.
A section of the Western Ghats.
A section of the Western Ghats.
Magentic Manifestations
According to Global Wildlife Conservation, at least a third of the known 6,000 frog species are threatened by extinction from habitat loss, pollution, changing temperatures or exotic diseases spread by invasive animals and pests. "It's like a Hollywood movie, both joyful and sad. On the one hand, we have brought these beautiful frogs into public knowledge. But about 80 percent are outside protected areas, and in some places, it was as if nature itself was crying," said Biju.
The Indian government has worked to create an environmental protection zone in various regions in the Ghats, but the latest proposal is on hold at present. The Ghats are home to 325 of the world's threatened species of plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. According to Biju and his team, seven of the frog species discovered are in highly degraded habitats where logging or new plantations are taking over. Another 12 species are in areas that seem to be in ecological decline.
Seventy-five new amphibian species have been discovered in the Ghats in the last 15 years, with Biju and his team finding 50 of them. Sonali Garg a co-author of the study says her family thought she was crazy to want to study frogs. "But slowly, they're becoming aware of how important and special frogs are," she said. "Slowly, I'm converting them."
More about Western ghats, Frog, New species
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