Scientists have discovered what they deem as 14 new species of frogs that “appear to dance” in the mountainous jungle regions of the Western Ghats in southern India. The Ghats, which spans from the western state of Maharashtra down to the southern tip of India, is a 1,600 kilometer, or 990 mile, range of habitat for the amphibious species. The new discovery doubles the pre-existing number of the dancing frogs to 24. Their habitat is under numerous threats from not only people, but climate change as well, posing serious risks to the endangered frogs.
Only the males of the species actually do the dance, which is usually called a foot-flagging display. They extend and then whip their legs out the sides of their bodies in a v-like shape in order to draw attention from the females, who may have problems hearing their croaks over the loud moving streams that are their mating habitat. It is also suggested that it is a show of power, with the biggest male frogs sometimes hitting other males who may be trying to woo the same female. This is due, the researchers say, to the fact that there are 100 male frogs that appear to dance for every found female dancing frog in India.
Although the researchers had been able to study frogs in the same region as before, they are now saying that the numbers from a 2006 study have already lessened to a fifth of what they were back then. At that time they claim to have seen between 400 and 500 of the croakers around breeding season, but due to environmental conditions, they say that each subsequent year they began to encounter less and less of the species.
The scientists say that even though they have now brought the plight of this species of frogs into the public’s perception, it is likely too late to be able to help the threatened frogs that appear to dance in India. They state that perhaps up to 80 percent of the small, delicate creatures live outside of protected areas and that makes it hard to be able to help them to survive. Their study had found that the area they were observing had soils in the forest that were losing moisture and that the streams that usually had run all year were drying up.
Because the amphibians are so tiny, being the size of a walnut, they are at risk of being swept away in fast-moving waters. This makes the weather patterns, especially the monsoon season, so important to the continuation of the frogs’ survival. The frogs found in India that appear to dance need to wait until after the rainy season to breed because the water levels until then can be either too high, or too low, to create the optimal conditions for the frogs to breed. The females tend to bury their eggs in the ground right after they have been fertilized, requiring stream levels to be at just the right level.
The researchers claim that because the frogs that appear to dance in India are extremely close to their habitat, any changes that may happen to it could be potentially devastating to the species. Much as the Micrixalidae, the scientific name for the frogs, are similar to amphibians in Southeast Asia and Central America, it is thought that the Indian frogs did not evolve with them, instead emerging separately around 85 million years ago.
Because India has grown to a tremendous 1.2 billion people, there has been an encroachment of nearly 25 percent on the habitat of the found frogs that appear to dance in the Ghats. The mountainous range is also home to 325 or more of the worlds bedeviled species of birds, reptiles, plants, fish and amphibians. A number of the newly found frogs could be joining the rest of the endangered species. The researchers found that seven of the species lived in habitats highly debased by human activity, and another 12 species were in areas that were suffering some form of ecological deterioration. The scientists believe that documenting the new species of frogs will help to prevent them from becoming extinct before they can be named.
Opinion by Korrey Laderoute