New Indian amphibian discovery

The newly-discovered limbless amphibian Ichthyophis davidi. Photo: Special Arrangement

From daily The Hindu in India:

Kozhikode, October 25, 2011

New amphibian discovered

Jabir Mushthari

A team of researchers including from the Zoological Survey of India, Western Ghat Regional Centre, Kozhikode has discovered a new species of limbless amphibian from Western Ghats, additional director of ZSI centre Kozhikode, C. Radhakrishnan told The Hindu here on Monday.

The new species, Ichthyophis davidi, a yellow striped caecilian according to him, has been discovered from the Belgaum district of Karnataka, which is part of the Western Ghat.

The new species Ichthyophis davidi is one of the largest known yellow striped caecilians from Western Ghats and is named in honour of David Gower, Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London, in recognition of his contributions to Indian caecilian studies, he said.

According to him, it has been systematically placed under the genus Ichthyophis of the Ichthyophiidae family. The members of the genus Ichthyophis include both striped and non-striped caecilians. These animals are nocturnal and are found in forests and plantations.

Western Ghats, one of the global biodiversity ‘hot spots’, support 25 species of legless amphibians (the caecilians). Among the 25 species, only 5 are yellow striped forms, which are limited in distribution. He said that the members of the team had also discovered a few other new species of amphibians from the region earlier.

Habitat destruction, due to human interference, and usage of chemical fertilizers in the plantations (areca, banana and cardamom) according to him is limiting the distribution of these limbless amphibians in Western Ghats. Conservation of the forested patches adjacent to plantations and usage of organic manure in the plantations next to forested patches are the best means to safe protect the caecilians in Western Ghats, he said.

Gopalakrishna Bhatta of the Department of Biology, BASE Educational Services Pvt. Ltd, Bengaluru; P. Prashanth of Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, Agumbe, Nirmal U. Kulkarni of Mhadei Research Centre, Belgaum and K.P. Dinesh of ZSI regional centre Kozhikode are the researchers behind the discovery besides Dr. Radhakrishnan. The discovery has been published in the latest issue of Current Science, he said.

See also here. And here.

Gegeneophis primus, another new Indian caecilian: here.


A creature discovered by engineers building a dam in the Amazon is a type of caecilian, a limbless amphibian that resembles an earthworm or as some are noting, part of the male anatomy.

The animal was discovered while draining a portion of the Madeira River — a major tributary of the Amazon — for a controversial hydroelectric project. Six individuals were found according to biologist Julian Tupan, who identified the species as Atretochoana eiselti. Little else is known about the species, although it is thought to be aquatic and lacks lungs, breathing through its skin instead. Other individuals have been found near the mouth of the Amazon, more than 2,500 km away. Caecilians are typically predators, feeding on small fish, worms, and other aquatic invertebrates. They have poor eye-sight and navigate primarily though smell.

Atretochoana eiselti is the largest known caecilian, attaining a length of 75 cm (30 inches), or more than twice the size of the next-largest known species.


8 thoughts on “New Indian amphibian discovery

  1. New family of ‘snakes’ found in NE

    Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times

    New Delhi, February 21, 2012

    Indian researchers have discovered a new family of legless amphibians — commonly known as caecilians that superficially resemble earthworms or snakes — in India’s northeast and parts of Myanmar and Thailand.

    The discovery of the family, called Chikilidae, was part of a study conducted
    by SD Biju of the University of Delhi along with co-researchers from the Natural History Museum, London, and Vrije University, Brussels. Interestingly, in 2003, Biju was responsible for the discovery of another family of amphibians — the purple frog. That was a discovery in the class of amphibians that had come after a gap of 100 years.

    “This new family has ancient links to Africa,” read the study reported in Proceedings of Royal Society of London on Tuesday. It is believed that the family separated from other species of caecilians more than 140 million years ago at the break-up of the southern continents (Gondwana). Their DNA was tested to reach this conclusion.

    The new species is threatened by the rapidly disappearing green cover in the northeast. Immediate steps are required to protect the remaining forests from human activities like Jhum cultivation, the study said. Globally, amphibians are the most threatened vertebrate group with one out of three surviving amphibian species on the verge of extinction.

    “Apart from habitat destruction, local myth also contributes to caecilian depletion. Local communities believe that caecilians are venomous ‘snakes’. Actually, caecilians are neither venomous nor are they snakes. They never bite. They open their mouths only to eat,” Biju said. The researcher said the discovery was the result of unprecedented fieldwork comprising soil-digging surveys in about 250 localities spread over all states of the northeast. The work was carried out over five years from 2006 to 2010. “The work is the most extensive systematic programme of dedicated caecilian surveys ever attempted,” Biju said.

    The Chikilidae lead a secretive life under soil, making it challenging to find them. They can normally be seen on rainy days.


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