Scientists have discovered seven new species of night frogs from the Western Ghats in India, of which four are among the smallest frogs known to man.
The newly found species belong to the Nyctibatrachus genus. The four smaller frogs, measuring between 0.5 and 0.6 inches, are Nyctibatrachus manalari, N. pulivijayani, N. robinmoorei and N. Sabarimalai.
The others namely N. Webilla, N. athirappillyensis, and N. radcliffei, are comparatively bigger, at 0.7, 0.8 and 1.5 inches respectively.
Better known as Night frogs, these amphibians are endemic to the Western Ghats, one of the world’s leading biodiversity hotspots and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. Night frogs are found the streams and marshes of southern India, with their habitats ranging across Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.
“The miniature species are locally abundant and fairly common, but they have probably been overlooked because of their extremely small size, secretive habits and insect-like calls,” said the lead author of the study Sonali Garg, researcher at the University of Delhi.
These miniature frogs were found hiding under the vegetation and forest leaf litter, making them difficult to find.
The newly identified species live in non-protected regions, which are constantly disturbed by human activities. This is a cause for concern regarding the survival and future of these species with limited habitat ranges.
The Radcliffe’s Night frog and the Kadalar Night Frog were found within plantations. The Athirappilly Night Frog was discovered near the Athirappilly waterfalls, which is a tourist spot, while the Sabarimala Night Frog was found near the Sabarimala pilgrimage centre. All these regions are frequented by anthropogenic activities, leading to loss of habitat.
“Of the seven new species, five are facing considerable anthropogenic threats and require immediate conservation prioritisation,” said the study co-author SD Biju, an amphibian expert at the University of Delhi. “Over 32%, that is one-third of the Western Ghats frogs are already threatened with extinction.”
The findings add to the 28 recognised species of night frogs, nearly half of which were discovered over the last five years. The study highlights the biodiversity of the Western Ghats, which remain underestimated, also emphasising the need for implementing measures to protect the endangered species in the region.