New frog species discovered in India

Microhyla laterite adult male

From Wildlife Extra:

New frog species discovered in India’s wastelands

A team of researchers from India and the National University of Singapore (NUS) has discovered a new species of narrow-mouthed frog in the laterite rock formations of India’s coastal plains. The frog, which is the size of a thumbnail, was named Microhyla laterite after its natural habitat.

The discovery by the research team, led by Mr Seshadri K S, a PhD student from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, was published in the prestigious journal PLOS One on 9 March 2016.

Laterite rock formations are prominent landscape features in the coastal plains of southwest India. They are broadly considered as rocky areas as they are usually devoid of trees and other vegetation, and are therefore classified as wastelands. These areas are often used for dumping activities and are heavily mined for construction materials in the form of bricks.

While conducting field surveys as a part of his citizen science initiative “My laterite, My habitat”, independent researcher Mr Ramit Singal, who is one of the authors of the journal paper, spotted the frog in laterite habitats in and around the coastal town of Manipal, Udupi District, Karnataka State, India. He brought it to the attention of Mr Seshadri and his collaborators, who worked together to describe the frog.

The frog, which measures around 1.6 centimetres, is pale brown with prominent black markings on its dorsum, hands, feet and flanks. It has a call that can be easily mistaken for that of a cricket.

The newly discovered species was named Microhyla laterite (M. laterite) after the habitat it resides in. The research team suggested Laterite narrow-mouthed frog to be its common name, as frogs in the Microhyla genus have a smaller mouth compared to other frogs.

Mr Seshadri, who is the lead author of the journal paper, said, “By naming the frog after its habitat, we hope to draw attention to the endangered rock formations that are of ecological importance. M. laterite can potentially be used as a mascot to change peoples’ perception about laterite areas.”

To ensure the validity of the frog as a new species, Mr Seshadri and his team members studied the genes, body structure, colouration and vocalisations of four individual frogs. They also compared the results with data of closely related species.

“One could easily confuse this frog with other species like Microhyla ornata which is thought to occur all over India. However, it was evident from analysing the genes that M. laterite is a distinct species, and is closely related to M. sholigari, which is found only in the Western Ghats,” said Mrs Priti Hebbar, one of the authors of the paper who is studying the effects of forest fragmentation on frogs in India for her PhD. “All three species are small and similar in appearance and only a critical examination would reveal the differences,” she added.

Further studies and conservation efforts

Based on preliminary assessments, the research team suggested M. laterite to be classified as Endangered under the guidelines of the Red List by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as the geographic range of the frog is narrow, within an area of 150 square kilometres in southwest India.

“In spite of its geological heritage, laterite areas in India receive very little protection from any legislation. Given the threats these fragile habitats are facing, there is a strong imperative to conserve them,” said Mr Ramit.

Since M. laterite appears to be restricted to laterite rock formations along the west coast, the researchers intend to conduct further research to determine the evolutionary ecology of the frog, and to test for an association with laterite formations.

“How amphibians persist outside protected areas is not known. This critically endangered frog can be used as a basis for declaring its native laterite habitats as “Conservation Reserves” or “Biological Heritage Areas” under existing legislations in India, allowing us to further our knowledge and understanding of amphibians,” said Mr Seshadri.

See also here.

New snake species discovery in India

This video says about itself:

The Incredible Indian Snake Girl

Deadly cobra snakes are the best pals of this eight-year-old Indian girl even after being bitten by them a couple of times. Kajol Khan who wants to become a snake catcher like her father eats, sleeps and plays with six cobras all day long. She has even stopped going to school out of her love for the snakes. Kajol said: “I didn’t like the company of humans in the school so stopped going there five years ago.” See how little girl Kajol plays with the deadly cobra snakes, trains the snakes and handles the snakes.

Now, from venomous to non-venomous snakes.

Wallaceophis gujaratenesis. Photo by Zeeshan Mirza


A New Miocene-Divergent Lineage of Old World Racer Snake from India

March 2, 2016


A distinctive early Miocene-divergent lineage of Old world racer snakes is described as a new genus and species based on three specimens collected from the western Indian state of Gujarat. Wallaceophis gen. et. gujaratenesis sp. nov. is a member of a clade of old world racers.

The monotypic genus represents a distinct lineage among old world racers is recovered as a sister taxa to Lytorhynchus based on ~3047bp of combined nuclear (cmos) and mitochondrial molecular data (cytb, ND4, 12s, 16s). The snake is distinct morphologically in having a unique dorsal scale reduction formula not reported from any known colubrid snake genus. Uncorrected pairwise sequence divergence for nuclear gene cmos between Wallaceophis gen. et. gujaratenesis sp. nov. other members of the clade containing old world racers and whip snakes is 21–36%.

From IANS news in India:

Mumbai, March 3: A team of young Indian researchers and naturalists have recently discovered a new snake genus and species in Gujarat, it was announced here on Thursday.

The snake genus has been named Wallaceophis in honour of the legendary 19th century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), considered the father of biogeography, while the snake species has been named gujaratenisis to commemorate the western Indian state where it was discovered.

New catfish species discovered in India

This video says about itself:

30 September 2013

Glass catfish (Kryptopterus bicirrhis)

Habitat: Asia
Temperature: 23-27°C
pH: 6,5-7,5
Length: 8 cm

From PLOS one:

Amblyceps waikhomi, a New Species of Catfish (Siluriformes: Amblycipitidae) from the Brahmaputra Drainage of Arunachal Pradesh, India

Achom Darshan, Akash Kachari, Rashmi Dutta, Arijit Ganguly, Debangshu Narayan Das

Published: February 3, 2016


Amblyceps waikhomi sp. nov. is described from the Nongkon stream which drains into the Noa Dehing River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, in Arunachal Pradesh, India. The new species can be distinguished from congeners (except A. torrentis) in having a deeper body depth at anus.

It further differs from congeners (except A. mangois and A. serratum) in having fewer vertebrae, from A. mangois in lacking (vs. having) strongly-developed projections on the proximal lepidotrichia of the median caudal-fin rays, and in having a longer, wider, and deeper head; and from A. serratum in having a posteriorly smooth (vs. with 4–5 serrations) pectoral spine, and unequal jaw length (lower jaw longer and weakly-projecting anteriorly vs. equal upper and lower jaws). It additionally differs from A. murraystuarti, A. torrentis, A. apangi, A. laticeps, and A. cerinum in having a deeply forked (vs. emarginate or truncate) caudal fin. This species is the seventh amblycipitid species known to occur in the Ganga-Brahmaputra River system.

Raptor conservation in India

This video is about an Amur falcon. One of the raptor species migrating through India.

From BirdLife:

Indian Government signs raptor conservation agreement

By Ed Parnell, Thu, 21/01/2016 – 11:28

India has become the 54th country to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU), an important international agreement to protect migratory birds of prey.

Approval to sign the Raptors MOU was given by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Cabinet meeting held on 30 December 2015. Although legally non-binding, the Raptors MOU –which was concluded under the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – is an important instrument for the conservation of birds of prey.

“It gives us immense pleasure to congratulate the Prime Minister and Government for making India the 54th signatory to the Raptors MOU. This agreement is a big step forward for the monitoring, research and conservation of migratory species of raptors. We will be honoured if we can assist the Government in meeting India’s obligations under the treaty,” said Deepak Apte, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS, BirdLife in India).

Established in 1883, BNHS is among the oldest conservation organisations in the world, and over the course of its long history has carried out pioneering research and conservation on many birds of prey including South Asia’s critically endangered vultures, and other migratory raptors such as Amur Falcon Falco amurensis.

Although the migratory status of Asia’s vultures is in most cases ambiguous, they are in the process of being included in the Raptors MOU, which will be an important instrument in the fight to save them.

In November 2012, with significant input from BirdLife, the CMS adopted a resolution (Resolution 10.10) which, for the first time, essentially set out a global agenda for conservation along flyways – well-travelled routes used by birds during their migration, which often span continents and oceans. BirdLife also ensured effective resolutions were agreed on a number of key issues affecting raptors including agrochemicals, power lines and renewable energy. BirdLife provided much of the scientific information underpinning the Raptors MOU, which develops guidelines for national strategies for bird of prey conservation, and is working especially closely with the BirdLife’s Migratory Soaring Birds Project.