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New species of Horned frog discovered in Arunachal

First Published: 3rd July, 2024 16:56 IST

The frog species has been named after the state’s Apatani tribe – Xenophrys apatani.

In a major discovery, scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered a new species of horned frog, in the Tale Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS), in Arunachal Pradesh, a key area within the eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot.

The new species of frog is found  to be a forest dwelling horned frog which has been identified by ZSI researchers from Shillong, Itanagar and Pune. This discovery, published in the latest edition of the Zoological Survey of India, corrects a previous report from 2019 which identified the frog as the Maoson horned frog (Xenophrys maosonensis) in India.

The frog specias has been named as “Xenophrys apatani”, after the state’s “Apatani” tribe.This discovery marks a significant addition to India’s herpeto-faunal diversity.

Taking to X, Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu said, “The diverse fauna of Arunachal Pradesh continually amazes us! In a recent discovery, the @ZoologicalI scientists have identified a new species of horned frog named Xenophyrs apatani in the Tale Wildlife Sanctuary in Lower Subansiri district. The finding further enriches our rich biodiversity. Let us value and conserve it for our future generations.”

The team of researchers led by Bhaskar Saikia and Bikramjit Sinha of ZSI Shillong (Meghalaya), alongside their colleagues KP Dinesh and A Shabnam from ZSI Pune (Maharashtra), and Ilona Jacinta Kharkongkar from ZSI Itanagar, overturns a previous erroneous report in 2019 from Saikia and his team where they had mistakenly identified the specimen now named “Xenophrys apatani” as “Xenophrys maosonensisdue” due to limited genetic data.

“Upon closer examination and a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis involving 142 molecular sequence data, we found significant genetic and morphological differences between the specimen from Arunachal Pradesh and the true Xenophrysmaosonensis,” explained Saikia in a report filed by Arunachal Times.

“Our findings highlight the importance of rigorous taxonomy and the use of integrative approaches in species identification,” said Dr Bikramjit Sinha, who was the then in-charge of ZSI Itanagar, and had led the field survey team that made the collection of this species from the Tale WLS.

“This discovery not only expands our understanding of frog diversity in Northeast India but also underscores the need for accurate species delineation in biodiversity research,” Saikia further added.

“The current research finding is published in the latest issue of the Records of the Zoological Survey of India journal, contributing significantly to the ongoing efforts to catalogue and protect India’s unique biodiversity,” said Saikia in a report by The Hindu.

Reportedly, Tale WLS is significant for its rich biodiversity, including diverse amphibian species. The discovery of” Xenophrys apatani” underscores the sanctuary’s significance as a hotspot for amphibian conservation in the eastern Himalayas. Incidentally, this is the fifth new species of frogs discovered by Saikia and Bikramjit Sinha in recent times from Tale WLS. In 2017, they had made the discovery of Odorrana arunachalensis, and in 2019 they had discovered three new species of Liurana frogs, and named them Liurana himalayana, Liurana indica and Liurana minuta from this protected area.

The researchers also offered insights into the biogeographic distribution of Xenophrys, which are found across the Eastern Himalayas and Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots. Their findings are anticipated to guide future conservation efforts and deepen the understanding of amphibian evolution in the region.

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