New frogs discoveries in the Western Ghats

Mercurana myristicapalustris:

  • A roughly 5 cm long, rust-brown arboreal frog with little bulbous toe tips and yellow-tinted eyes.
  • It was not a particularly unusual looking tree frog, but it exhibited some rather unique behaviour.
  • Just before mating, for instance, male and female frogs descend to the ground and changed colour to match leaf litter.
  • Rather than laying eggs in water as most frogs do, these choose shallow burrows.
  • Their interest piqued, the team used genetic analysis and confirmed the species was distinct enough to warrant a name of its own.
  • They called it—Mercurana myristicapalustris—after the Myristica swamps they inhabit in the southern Western Ghats of Kerala.
  • Nasikabatrachidae, which comprises the purple or pig-nosed frog, and four genera that are found only in the Western Ghats.
  • The Myristica swamps of Kerala that are home to Mercurana are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the Western Ghats.
  • Many new frog species are found outside protected areas and in human-dominated ones, including in backyards.

How do these discoveries matter?

  • Discerning taxonomic status is the crucial first step to understanding amphibian ecology and evolution better.
  • “It helps us ask more detailed questions, which can be vital for conservation.
  • These include aspects of species ecology including frog behaviour.
  • It was Mercurana’s unique egg-laying behaviour, for instance, which raised doubts that it could be a different species, and not the commonly-found one it resembled.
  • “It is important to see how traits such as parental care and related behaviour evolved because it tells us how frogs adapt to their surroundings; and in turn helps us see how they can adapt to changing climates.
  • Amphibians are natural pest control agents and bioindicators.
  • High insect populations could decimate crop produce and affect humans directly, but frogs keep them under control.
  • Amphibians also have porous skin, which means that any pollution in the local ecosystem will affect them first: thus they are great bioindicators and reflect the health of an ecosystem. But these roles have often been overlooked.


Leave a Reply