Four species of diminutive amphibians, described in PeerJ have been discovered in the Western Ghats mountain range in western India. The region is a biodiversity hotspot rivalling the Amazon jungle, and has yielded over 100 new amphibian species since 2006.
Measuring in at between 12 and 16 millimetres head-to-toosh, the four miniature species are among the smallest ever described. (The crown for the smallest is currently held by the Papua New Guinean Paedophryne amanuensis, which measures less than 8 millimetres in length).
Detailed morphological measures, DNA comparisons and call pattern analysis were used to distinguish the new night frog recruits from the 28 other members of the Nyctibatrachus genus, which is only found in the Western Ghats.
Although they are new to science, the miniature frogs are surprisingly common at the sites where they were found, according to Sonali Garg, the University of Delhi PhD student who found and classified the frogs.
“They have probably been overlooked because of their extremely small size, secretive habitats and insect-like calls,” she says.
While they may be abundant, their future is already looking precarious. All were found at a single location, and several were isolated from unprotected habitats such as plantations that are readily disturbed by human activity.
Dyani Lewis is a freelance science journalist based in Melbourne, Australia.
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