Friday, March 11, 2016

A new frog: Microhyla laterite

Microhyla laterite Image Credit: Ramit Singal
Laterite rock formations are prominent landscape features in the coastal plains of southwest India. These rocky areas are usually devoid of trees and other vegetation, and are therefore classified as wastelands. In addition they are often used for dumping activities and are heavily mined for construction materials such as bricks.

While conducting field surveys as a part of the citizen science initiative "My laterite, My habitat," an independent researcher spotted an unknown frog in laterite habitats in and around the coastal town of Manipal. 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 after the habitat it resides in.

For the experts: In recent times, several new species of amphibians have been described from India. Many of these discoveries are from biodiversity hotspots or from within protected areas. We undertook amphibian surveys in human dominated landscapes outside of protected areas in south western region of India between years 2013–2015. We encountered a new species of Microhyla which is described here as Microhyla laterite sp. nov. It was delimited using molecular, morphometric and bioacoustics comparisons. Microhyla laterite sp. nov. appears to be restricted to areas of the West coast of India dominated by laterite rock formations. The laterite rock formations date as far back as the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary and are considered to be wastelands in-spite of their intriguing geological history. We identify knowledge gaps in our understanding of the genus Microhyla from the Indian subcontinent and suggest ways to bridge them.

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