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Scientists discovered seven new species of night frogs after five years of exploration in the Western Ghats mountains in India. Four of these new species of frogs are among the smallest in India, being smaller even than the average fingernail.
These findings, which were published in the PeerJ journal on Tuesday, led the Western Ghats to become the second place in biodiversity regarding frog species, immediately after the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.
Sonali Garg, the lead author of the study and a PhD student at the University of Delhi, declared that such a diversity was quite a surprise for them. The biggest surprise was offered by the tiny species, which must have remained unknown until now due to their incredibly small size, their calls which resembles those of insects, and their hidden habitats.
Larger frogs usually live in forest streams, have webbing between their toes and loud calls, so they are easier to spot. These newly discovered tiny frogs have cricket-like calls, live in marshes, and do not have foot webbing.
As mentioned, the scientists discovered seven species of Nyctibatrachus. Four of them are the tiny ones, that can even fit on a coin. Six of them are restricted to low- and mid-elevation geographical areas in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, while the other are specific to high-elevation mountain streams.
The scientists were guided by S.D. Biju, Garg’s mentor who had discovered 80 frog species so far. They have conducted intense research in 2002 and then between in 2013 and 2016 in the Western Ghats, a mountain chain that is parallel to the western coast of India.
The researchers located tiny frogs quite often, but then they discovered the specimens were actually youths. They had a great surprise when they succeeded in spotting tiny frogs who were parts of new species.
These newly discovered species of night frogs add up to the list of 28 other such frogs that have been discovered so far. These frogs are part of an ancient lineage that originates between the Cretaceous and Paleocene periods. About 70 or 80 million years ago, night frogs split up from other the other frog species.
Researchers suspect that there are still many other frog species that await their discovery. Also, this discovery suggests that the scientists should focus on their conservation, since the majority of amphibians in the area are already threatened.
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