Caecilian amphibians in South India

The Western Ghats mountain range in southern India is a global biodiversity hotspot and has many species of limbless, soil-dwelling caecilian amphibians. The Museum is a leading centre for caecilian research and we are working with colleagues in India to reassess the caecilians in the region.

This research collaboration has enabled us to

  • integrate anatomical and DNA data
  • compare new field discoveries from India with type and historical specimens in the Museum’s collections.
Results:
  • 13 new species of Western Ghats caecilians found
  • 3 previously recognised species invalidated.
  • clarification of the diversity and distinctiveness of the Western Ghats and Sri Lankan biotas
  • revealed viviparous Asian caecilians, which bear their young live rather than in eggs, evolved this feature independently
  • shown that all other Asian caecilians originated in India following separation from the rest of the Gondwana supercontinent about 130 million years ago.
  •  research findings have improved conservation assessments