India's 'Frog Man' And Team Discover Another Tiny Species From The Western Ghats

Professor Biju and team from the University of Delhi have named a newly discovered frog species after the former Vice-Chancellor and renowned Indian Plant Genetist Prof. Deepak Pental.

Planet Outlook
August 02, 2021
India's 'Frog Man' And Team Discover Another Tiny Species From The Western Ghats

University of Delhi researchers Professor S. D. Biju and Dr. Sonali Garg have just described a new species of frog belonging to the family Dicroglossidae. The new species was discovered from the globally recognized Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot that extends along the southwest coast of the Indian Peninsula.

The discovery was made during a comprehensive study on a considerably large, common, yet a confusing group of Indian frogs — genus Minervarya (common name: Minervaryan frogs), carried out over a period of nearly ten years. The new species was identified based on multiple criteria, such as external morphology, DNA and calling pattern. The study has also resolved the identity and taxonomic status of all known members of the genus from Peninsular India, in addition to clarifying the geographical ranges of species and providing numerous new distribution records based on morphologically and genetically identified samples from a vast region. The findings are published in a scientific article titled ‘DNA Barcoding and Systematic Review of Minervaryan Frogs (Dicroglossidae: Minervarya) of Peninsular India: Resolution of a taxonomic conundrum with description of a new species’ in the international journal Asian Herpetological Research.  

“It is a great privilege to name a frog species after Prof. Deepak Pental, the former Vice-Chancellor of University of Delhi, in appreciation of his tremendous support and encouragement for setting-up of the Systematics Lab at University of Delhi — where research leading to the discovery and description of nearly one-fourth of all known Indian amphibians has been carried out”, says Prof. S. D. Biju, under whose leadership the current study was published. Prof. Biju established the Systematics Lab in 2006, and is the Head of the Department of Environmental Studies and former Dean of the Faculty of Science at University of Delhi. He is also popularly known as the 'frog man' of India, for discovering a number of new amphibian species.

The new species, named Minervarya pentali, is endemic to the southern Western Ghats. “We discovered it from wayside vegetation at multiple localities in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, while surveying amphibians during the monsoon season. This species is also among the smallest known Minervaryan frogs, which is probably one of the reasons it was overlooked until now”, says Dr. Sonali Garg, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at University of Delhi.