Four new species of frog from one of the wettest regions on Earth
The amphibians belong to a group known as horned frogs, named for their pointy upper eyebrows. Typically quite robust amphibians, the new species described inhabit the remote forests that cover the Himalayan foothills extending down into northeast India.
Found right across south
Dr Stephen Mahony, the Museum scientist who has described these new species, says, 'This group is considered to be part of Archaeobatrachia, which are the ancient frogs.'
Only around 4% of all frogs belong to this group. 'Horned frogs are thought to be primitive amphibians from a lineage that is between 50 and 80 million years old,' explains Stephen.
For over 150 years researchers thought that Jerdon's white-lipped horned frog, Megophrys major, represented a single species living across vast swaths of south eastern Asia.
But after spending 11 years piecing together reports and papers, tracking down original collections in museums and even going out into the field to where these specimens were first collected, Stephen has found that things were by no means that simple.
These monumental efforts, in collaboration with colleagues at the Museum, University College Dublin and the University of Delhi, have now been published as a monograph in Zootaxa.
'It is mostly down to the fact that there was a lot of confusion as to which specimens were the type specimens,' explains Stephen. This refers to the individual frog on which the entire species was named.
'Without knowing what specimen is the type, it is difficult to
The wettest place on Earth
In order to resolve these issues, Stephen had to go back to the source of the confusion that swirled around the amphibians by delving into museum collections.
From here he traced all the literature both published and unpublished, in the form of
The detective work even took Stephen's Indian colleagues and coauthors Dr Rachunliu G. Kamei and SD Biju to northeastern India including Meghalaya state, one of the wettest regions on Earth.
The town of Sohra (historically known as Cherrapunjee), Meghalaya, receives on average 11,777 millimetres of rain every single year and holds the record for the most rain that has ever fallen in a single year when it received 26,470 millimetres of rain between 1860 and 1861.
To put this into perspective, damp London receives just 583 millimetres of rain per year.
Dr Rachunliu G. Kamei, says, 'We only ever see horned frogs at night time in the forest and they are generally very difficult to find because they occur in low numbers.
'So often over several nights of
'But the hardship is worthwhile when we find exciting species.'
It turned out that M. major is not a single species in itself, but made up of five separate ones. Each looks very similar, but have their own restricted range and show distinct genetic differences.
From this, Stephen was able to describe the Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys
That such a
New species in Vietnam
In fact, these are not the only Megophrys frogs that Stephen has been involved with describing this year, as another two new species of frogs from the mountains of Vietnam have been recently been published in Zootaxa.
Found on Indochina's highest mountain at an altitude of 3,143 metres, they have been named the Mount Fansipan horned frog (Megophrys
The frogs live along clear mountain streams that weave their way through lush ravines and bamboo forests.
The mountains that jut out of the lowlands and blanketed in
It means that having only just been described by science, these frogs may now be lost. Both species, found only within their restricted montane range, are thought to be endangered.