New tree frog genus discovered in India

Frankixalus jerdonii

Frankixalus jerdonii (shown) inhabits water-filled holes in the trees of India’s largely unexplored northeastern forests. 

S.D. Biju

While hunting for exotic amphibian species in the remote forests of northeastern India in 2007, biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju and his colleagues noticed the evening calls of an animal they’d never heard before. Now, after eight years of searching, they report that the mysterious calls belong a previously undiscovered genus of tree frog, described January 20 in PLOS ONE. 

Analysis of genetic fragments, physical characteristics and behaviors puts these frogs in a unique genus, dubbed Frankixalus by the research team. The genus includes a species first described in 1876 based solely on museum specimens, says Biju of the University of Delhi. The newfound frog populations live and breed in pools of water in holes in the trunks of canopy trees — a lifestyle that likely kept them off scientists’ radar. Tadpoles eat their mother’s eggs for sustenance, a common practice among frogs that live in low-resource environments.

Slash-and-burn land clearing for agriculture in the region could already threaten the frogs’ fragile habitat, the biologists write. 

Editor’s note: This post was updated on January 20, 2016, to include comments from Dr. Biju. 

Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson is the multimedia editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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