New Delhi: A Delhi University student has discovered four new species of burrowing frogs in the genus Fejervarya from the Western Ghats.

Sonali Garg

Sonali Garg, a PhD student of Professor SD Biju from University of Delhi, discovered the new species.  

Unlike other members of the genus, the new frogs live underground as they are adapted for a burrowing lifestyle.

Fejervarya manoharani, Fejervarya kadar, Fejervarya cepfi and Fejervarya neilcoxi are these new frog species. Previously, only one species of burrowing frog (scientific name: Fejervarya rufescens, common name: Rufescent Burrowing Frog) was known in the genus.  

Manoharani frog
Fejervarya manoharani

In the lab, the newly sampled frogs were confirmed as new species by using an integrated taxonomic approach that included DNA studies, detailed morphological comparisons and bioacoustics.

“Our study highlights a fairly common group of frogs that is usually found closer to human habitations but still not documented properly. More extensive studies are required to scientifically identify and describe the Western Ghats frogs which are already facing extinction threats from various human activities”, said Sonali Garg who conducted this study as part of her PhD research at University of Delhi.

Fejervarya kadar

Out of the four new species discovered by Delhi University researchers, two (Kadar Burrowing Frog and CEPF Burrowing Frog) could be facing serious anthropogenic threats requiring immediate conservation attention.

 “The new finding will have a significant implication on the conservation status of these frogs because now it is clear that instead of a single species there are five different species with different conservation requirements. We need to be concerned about the existence of these newly discovered frogs and conduct further studies to reassess their conservation status”, said Professor S D Biju, who supervised the PhD student at University of Delhi and led this study.

What is behind the names of the four new species?

Manoharan’s Burrowing Frog (scientific name: Fejervarya manoharani) is discovered from Agasthyamala hills in the southern state of Kerala. This new species is named for T M Manoharan, the former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of Kerala, in appreciation of his service, conservation efforts.

Kadar Burrowing Frog (scientific name: Fejervarya kadar) is discovered from Vazachal forest of Kerala and named after the Kadar tribe that lives in the region. This indigenous community was currently under limelight due to their protest against a megahydroelectric project proposed on Athirappilly falls located in the same region.

CEPF Burrowing Frog (scientific name: Fejervarya cepfi) is from the popular hillstation Amboli in Maharashtra. The new frog is named after the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (USA), recognizing its role in protecting global biodiversity hotspots, and for particularly highlighting the need to preserve biodiversity rich areas in the Western Ghats.

Fejervarya cepfi

Neil Cox’s Burrowing Frog (scientific name: Fejervarya neilcoxi) was found in the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and named after Dr Neil Cox of the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Conservation International Biodiversity assessment unit, in recognition of his role in the IUCN Red List assessment of global amphibian species.

Fejervarya neilcoxi

The study titled “Description of four new species of Burrowing Frogs in the Fejervarya rufescens complex (Dicroglossidae) with notes on morphological affinities of Fejervarya species in the Western Ghats,” was published on 20 June 2017 in Zootaxa, an international peer-reviewed and indexed journal.