Friday 20 October 2017

14 new 'dancing' frogs discovered

University of Delhi professor Sathyabhama Das Biju, lead scientist of a project that has discovered 14 species of so-called dancing frogs in southern India, displays a specimen of one of the new species (AP)
University of Delhi professor Sathyabhama Das Biju, lead scientist of a project that has discovered 14 species of so-called dancing frogs in southern India, displays a specimen of one of the new species (AP)

Scientists have discovered 14 new species of so-called dancing frogs in the jungle mountains of southern India - just in time, as scientists fear they may soon become extinct.

They breed after the yearly monsoon in fast-rushing streams, but their habitat appears to be becoming increasingly dry.

The study listing the new species - published in the Ceylon Journal of Science - brings the number of known Indian dancing frog species to 24.

They're found exclusively in the Western Ghats, a lush mountain range that stretches 990 miles from the western state of Maharashtra down to the country's southern tip.

Only the males dance - a unique breeding behaviour called foot-flagging.

They stretch, extend and whip their legs out to the side to draw the attention of females who might have trouble hearing mating croaks over the sound of water flowing through hill streams.

They bigger the frog, the more they dance. They also use those leg extensions to smack away other males - an important feature considering the sex ratio for the amphibians is usually around 100 males to one female.

"They need to perform 'I am the best man for you'," said Biju, who is celebrated as India's "Frogman" for discovering dozens of new species in his four-decade career.

There are other dancing frogs in Central America and Southeast Asia, but the Indian family, known by the scientific name Micrixalidae, evolved separately about 85 million years ago.

These are tiny, delicate frogs - no bigger than a walnut - and can easily be swept away in a gushing mountain stream.

India's government has been working to establish a vast environmental protection zone across the Ghats to limit polluting industrial activities and human encroachment, but it put the latest proposal on hold earlier this year.

Biju's determination, or even obsession, with documenting as many new frog species as possible stems from his fear that many will vanish as a "nameless extinction" before scientists ever learn they exist.

Press Association

Editors Choice

Also in World News