Seven miniature frogs discovered in the Western Ghats

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Researchers in India have found four new species of incredibly tiny night frogs.

The Indian scientists have discovered seven new miniature frog species in the Western Ghats. Indian night frogs split off from other frogs about 70 to 80 million years ago, according to the paper.

The study was published on 21 February 2017 in PeerJ, a peer-reviewed open access journal. This find is a result of five years of extensive explorations in the Western Ghats by a group of biologists led by Prof SD Biju of University of Delhi.

Sonali Garg, another member of the team told foreign media, These seven frogs are especially easy to miss. All of the species found appear to be fairly common in the region, but the frogs' size, combined with their secretive habits and unusual insect-like calls, are probably why they have gone undiscovered for so long. Four of the seven newly discovered Nyctibatrachus species are small enough to sit on a coin.

The others namely N. Webilla, N. athirappillyensis, and N. radcliffei, are comparatively bigger, at 0.7, 0.8 and 1.5 inches respectively. "Now almost 20 percent of night frogs have been found to be miniature".

New miniature frog species were spotted on the leaf litter of a damp forest. They are very ancient group of frogs which evolved much earlier. But most scientists agree that the region has seen a remarkable burst of speciation over the centuries.

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They are among hundreds of endemic amphibian species found in the mountain range, which has been labeled one of the eight "hottest hot spots" for species diversity.

However, that designation also implies a serious threat.

SD Biju from University of Delhi said that the discovery of the new species revealed insights into their evolution and preferred habitats. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund estimates that only one-third of the region's original forest "remains in pristine condition", and warns that "its forests face tremendous population pressure and have been dramatically impacted by demands for timber and agricultural land". Biju stated, of the seven new species, five are in immediate danger and facing threats and should be place high on the conservation prioritization list.

The study authors stated how nearly 35 percent of the known amphibian species are under threat of extinction, as this was one of the reasons that accelerated this study for them to found them before they were gone.

Scientists consider amphibians an important gauge of an ecosystem's overall health, because they're exposed to both air and water.

In India, we really need to conserve small forms of animals because they have not been highlighted, so there is a need to make their presence felt as well, she added. "It is a very cute and small animal".

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