Smallest frog found in Kerala

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By G.S. MUDUR in Delhi
  • Published 3.10.07
The frog found in the Western Ghats

New Delhi, Oct. 3: Scientists have announced the discovery of India’s smallest frog, a creature just about a centimetre in length found on the forest floor of the southern Western Ghats in Kerala’s Waynad district.

The new species named Nyctibatrachus minimus is the smallest among the 220 known species of frogs in the country, researchers at the University of Delhi said after months of comparing frog sizes.

“It’s tiny — smaller than a five-rupee coin,” said Sathyabhama Das Biju, the biologist who discovered the creature while exploring the forests around Kurichiyarmala, a region covered with patches of high altitude forests separated by grasslands. The finding appears this week in the journal Current Science, published by the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Like most other frogs, this one, too, is most active during the night. The males begin calling out from the marshes in the forests around sunset. Biju had to use torches and followed the calls of the frogs to find them.

The researchers studied 15 males and a single female and found that their sizes ranged from 10mm to 14mm from the snout (tip of the nose) to the vent (the tip of the vertebral column). The world’s smallest frog is about 9mm, said Biju, an amphibian specialist at the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems.

Scientists who view frogs as early warning indicators of changes in the ecosystem have long been studying frogs in the Western Ghats. “Even a small change in their environment or the climate can affect frog populations dramatically,” Biju said.

He and other team members from the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad, and the Vrije University in Belgium have also conducted preliminary genetic analysis of the frog. These studies indicate that it is 22 per cent genetically divergent from other known small species of Nyctibatrachus — the family of night frogs that has many other species.