Scientists discover a new frog species in Bangalore


*By M Chenna Nagaraj

New Delhi . Dec 30 .In a development that can widen the knowledge of ecology and life systems, a team of young and old local scientists have found a new genus of burrowing frog species in the wet fields of Bangalore stressing the need for more studies of lives around our surroundings.

   The finding of new species has been recorded in New Zealand based reputed journal ‘ZOOTAXA’. There are ten identified Sphaerotheca species in South Asia and the new found frogs in the wet agricultural fields of Budumanahalli in North Bangalore are somewhat relatable to Sphaerotheca Paschima or Nasika Betracus Sahyadri species at an aerial distance of about 700 km in Western Ghats. These frogs were found in 2002 and are counted as the tenth valid Sphaerotheca species in scientific circles. 

The scientists have so far sighted about 30 the burrow digging Sphaerotheca frogs in Rajanukunte urban zone between September 2018 to October 2019. Since this new species is genetically distinct lineage with morphological character set of distinguishable from congeners, they are recognised as the 11th Sphaerotheca species, Mr Deepak, a Zoology lecturer in Mount Carmel’s College who spotted this new breedas part of his doctoral studies to document amphibians in Deccan Plateau told this correspondent. 

He is the first author of the article and is currently enrolled for doctoral thesis in the Mysore University. Since Deepak had trodden an uncharted territory of amphibian studies, he involved established scientists in the domain that included .Dr K P Dinesh, scientist Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Dr Kartik Shanker of Indian Institute of Science and Annamerie Ohler of Sorbonne UniversityParis. Retired directors Dr Ramakrishna (ZSI) and Dr Sanjappa of Biological Survey of India played the mentors role. 

Their collective studies has now received international recognition with the New Zealand journal accepting the claims of scientists for this discovery as the 11th valid Sphaerotheca genus.   Dr Dinesh, the second author of the paper said that the presence of a new species of frogs in outer Bangalore area highlights towards the lacunae in the amphibian studies of dry Deccan Plateau zone in Karnataka and the subject was understudied compared to bio-diversity hotspot— the Western Ghats.

Dr Ramakrishna, who retired as the Director of ZSI in Kolkata and was part of this group, said that the burrow making frogs are among known cryptic species to live without any food for months and probably years beneath the surface. Health is one area that has suffered because of rapid urbanisation resulting in extinction of frogs in urban areas impacting the spread of mosquito borne diseases.

   There is one more area that is yet to draw public attention is about the uses of frog skins in treating severe burn injuries. Frog skins are being used for grafting burnt areas in human beings in western countries. This could open up a newer ways of skin grafting in India since the materials are readily available for grafting, Dr Ramakrishna said.The importance of this discovery of this species is significant from bio-prospecting view. A follow up study is required for assessing the presence or absence of a species in our ecology. 

“The discovery opens up possibility for further studies for widening the vistas in multiple areas of human knowledge”, he remarked.

* The writer is a former correspondent of UNI in New Delhi and Bangalore