The frog was discovered in a single locality of the Namdapha Tiger Reserve, India's easternmost protected area
A team of scientists from the University of Delhi and Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) discovered a new species of frog in Arunachal Pradesh and named it Microhyla eos, according to a statement.
Microhyla are a group of narrow-mouthed frogs (subfamily Microhylinae) that is primarily and widely distributed in Asia. Commonly known as 'Rice Frogs' or 'Chorus Frogs', the genus currently comprises of 49 recognised species.
The new frog was discovered from riparian habitats in a primary evergreen forest in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve of the state, which is also the eastern-most protected area in the country.
The frog was confirmed to represent a distinct new species after detailed comparison of both, DNA and morphology, with all previously known members of the group found across South, Southeast, and East Asia.
Since Arunachal Pradesh is popularly known as ‘the land of rising sun’ or ‘the land of dawn-lit mountains’, the new species has been named as eos, after the mythological Greek goddess of dawn.
The Northeast: A biodiversity hotspot
“Our discovery shows that the actual number of frog species in northeast India, even in the relatively common and well-studied groups, is higher than current estimates. More extensive studies are required to scientifically identify and describe the northeastern frogs, which are already facing extinction threats from various human activities”, SD Biju, the lead author of the study from the University of Delhi, said.
The eastern Himalayas are an important part of the Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot, one of the 36 globally recognised regions known for high species diversity and endemism, as well as a high number of globallly threatened species. However, compared to the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot in peninsular India, the eastern Himalayas remain relatively overlooked and unexplored.
The past decade has witnessed an exponential increase in the number of new amphibian species described from India, particularly the Western Ghats region that has currently over 250 known species. However, the rate of discovery and description of novelties from northeast India has been relatively slower compared to the Western Ghats.
“It is high time that we carry out dedicated amphibian surveys in many pooly or yet unexplored regions of North East India, along with comprehensive integrative taxonomic studies, similar to the Western Ghats where the number of known amphibian species has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, making it one of the leading biodiversity hotspots in the world with an unprecedented rate of new frog discoveries” Biju added.
Based on DNA analyses, the new study found the closest relatives of Microhyla eos to be in Southeast Asia, rather than India. The Northeastern region of India is often considered as a transition zone of faunal elements between the Indian subcontinent and the rest of Asia.
However, the fact that this regions has its own microendemic faunal elements, is often overlooked. Microhyla eos is currently known from a single locality, Rani Jheel in Namdapha Tiger Reserve. Further studies will be necessary to ascertain the exact geographical range and conservation requirements of this species.
The study A new Microhyla species (Anura: Microhylidae) from riparian evergreen forest in the eastern Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh, India was published in the journal Zootaxa on September 23, 2019.
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