14 new dancing frog species discovered – just as they are about to become extinct

The 'beautiful' frogs have never before been brought to the knowledge of the public - yet live in a precarious balance with their fast-eroding environment

A team of scientists have said that their extraordinary discovery of 14 news species of dancing frogs in the Indian jungle is “both joyful and sad”, as it is likely they will soon all become extinct.

Biologists have been studying the animals, named because of the unusual kicking displays they use to attract mates, for more than a decade in the jungle mountains of southern India.

Their study formally identifying the new species, published today in the Ceylon Journal of Science, more than doubles the number of known Indian dancing frog species to 24.

The frogs are found exclusively in the Western Ghats mountain range, but that habitat is rapidly shifting as a result of climate change.

Even in just the brief period that they have been analysed for the first time by scientists, numbers have dropped to around a fifth of what they were in 2006.

“It's like a Hollywood movie, both joyful and sad,” said the project’s lead scientist, University of Delhi professor Sathyabhama Das Biju.

“On the one hand, we have brought these beautiful frogs into public knowledge. But about 80 per cent are outside protected areas, and in some places, it was as if nature itself was crying.”

The frogs are tiny and delicate, around the size of a walnut, so are only able to breed in a delicate window between monsoon storms that would wash them away and the point when streams dry up altogether.

Prof Biju said that over the course of the team’s observations forest soils appeared to lose moisture and streams that had run all year round went dry.

“Compared with other frogs, these are so sensitive to this habitat that any change might be devastating for them,” he said. “Back in 2006, we saw maybe 400 to 500 hopping around during the egg-laying season. But each year there were less, and in the end even if you worked very hard it was difficult to catch even 100.”

The tiny amphibious acrobats appear similar to others in Central America and Southeast Asia, but the Indian family, known by the scientific name Micrixalidae, evolved separately about 85 million years ago.

Only the males actually dance — in a unique breeding display called foot-flagging. They stretch, extend and whip their legs out to the side to draw the attention of females who might have trouble hearing mating croaks over the sound of water flowing through hill streams.

The dance is a show of power – the bigger the frog, the better the moves. Leg extensions are also used to smack away other males — vital given the unfavourable ratio for the amphibians is usually around 100 males to one female.

Their habitat, the Ghats, stretch 1,600 km (990 miles) from the western state of Maharashtra down to the country's southern tip, but an Environment Ministry report in 2010 said the range was likely to be one the areas hardest-hit by changing rainfall patterns.

It’s forest have shrunk by at least 25 per cent, and the Ghats are now home to more than 325 of the world's most threatened species of plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish.

Many of the newly discovered frogs will soon be joining them, Prof Biju said. The majority of the species live only in a single, small area. Seven were in what Prof Biju described as “highly degraded” habitats where logging or new plantations were taking over, while another 12 species were in areas that appeared in ecological decline.

Prof Biju's determination, or even obsession, with documenting as many new frog species as possible stems has earned him the nickname “Frogman” in India, and stems from his fear that many will vanish as “unnamed extinctions” before scientists ever learn they exist. Experts think Earth has about 8.7 million distinct plant and animal species, but they have documented only 1.5 million.

Amphibians are particularly vulnerable. At least one-third of the world's known 6,000 frog species are threatened with extinction from habitat loss, pollution, changing temperatures or exotic diseases spread by invasive animals and pests, according to Global Wildlife Conservation.

Sonali Garg one of the study's co-authors, said her family initially thought she was crazy for wanting to study frogs. “But slowly, they're becoming aware of how important and special frogs are,“ she said. ”Slowly, I'm converting them.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EBD Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Science Teacher Greater Manchester

Humanities Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits