Researchers Discover New Cryptic Frog Species | Mangaluru News

Mangaluru: A team of researchers have discovered a new cryptic frog species from the catchment area of River Tunga in the Western Ghats. The research paper was published in ‘Zootaxa’ on Tuesday after the species was first recorded in 2019.
The team of researchers who have discovered the new species Nyctibatrachus tunga or Tunga night frog, include KS Pavan Kumar, HU Vishwajith and GY Dayananda from the department of applied zoology, Kuvempu University; Anand Anisha from Rajasthan and KV Gururaja from Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology, and Priti Hebbar from Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.
K V Gururaja told TOI: “My students Pavan Kumar and Vishwajith spotted this species in 2019. We realised that it was a cryptic species, because it resembles the Kumbara night frog (Nyctibatrachus kumbara)”.
Priti Hebbar using molecular techniques showed that the new species is a shallow divergent from its sister species, but by integrating the molecular techniques, bioacoustical analysis and morphology, researchers were able to describe it as a new species. The Tunga night frog derives its name from the place it was found in the upper catchments of River Tunga. The frogs from the genus Nyctibatrachus show in-situ radiation, thus their evolution is closely linked to the Western Ghats’ topography. Though it was found in the upper catchment areas of River Tunga, the researchers believe that species could be present beyond known localities. Based on field observations, the species is locally abundant but is restricted to perennial streams of the coffee estates, evergreen, and semi-evergreen forests, said Gururaja.
Conservation approach
Priti Hebbar, who is working on the conservation genetics of a few endemic species in the Western Ghats, highlighted that “Rather than Protected Areas, amphibians of the Western Ghats need a catchment-based conservation approach that protects the drainage systems of the Western Ghats”.
Such an approach would help conserve the Western Ghats amphibians, especially the stream-dwelling anurans, who are evolutionarily distinct. Nevertheless, the new species’ description reiterates that the Western Ghats is a hotspot for amphibians and many more species still await formal description of this region, the researchers noted.

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