A team of researchers from the University of Delhi recently discovered four new species of miniature frogs that can sit comfortably on a fingernail in the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot. Up until now, scientists believed there were only a handful of miniature frog species. However, the latest discovery suggests that tiny frogs are actually abundant locally and fairly common.
The researchers believe the miniature frogs went unnoticed until recently exactly because of their sizes and secretive habitats, concealed by dense vegetation or hidden under damp soil. Three other larger species but belonging to the same genus of night frog were also discovered in the Western Ghats. Details of the discovery have been published in PeerJ.
Out of all the newly discovered miniature frog species, the largest only measures about 38 mm in length. At the same time, the smallest night frog comes in at only 12 mm. In order to prove the species of miniature frogs are new to science, the team of researchers used an array of techniques to prove their authenticity, including bioacoustics, DNA testing, and detailed morphological comparisons.
The thing that sets these frogs apart from all other species and also one of the reason they went unnoticed for so long is their distinctive insect-like calls, which resembles more a cricket chirping rather than an actual frog. Other differences refer to the lack of webbing between the representatives’ toes, noted Sonali Garg, one of the researchers and doctoral student at the University of Delhi.
With the recent discovery, the scientific community is now positive that there may be even more undiscovered night frog species in the area. Even more so, as 159 new species were discovered in the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot between 2006 and 2015.
According to Sonali Garg, night frogs diversified roughly 80 million years ago. Before their discovery, the scientific community officially recognized only 28 species of night frogs, out of which only three were miniature sized, said the researchers. In present, the total number of night frog species increased to 35, out of which seven of them are diminutive in size. However, one major cause for concern is that five of the seven newly discovered night frog species are facing anthropologic threats and some of them reside outside protected habitats.
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