Scientists found a new species of the tiny narrow-mouthed frog in Manipal and Mangaluru regions of India. The frog, which measures about 1.6 centimeters (0.63 inch) and about the size of the thumb, is called Microhyla laterite because of its habitat.
Researchers from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) Bengaluru, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Gubbi Labs, found the new species in Indian laterite rock formations. The discovery proved that the region, which is also called wastelands, has ecological importance. The particular region is an area in India which is heavily used for dumping garbage and mining of laterite.
Trees and vegetation are not seen in rock formations that is why they are dubbed as rocky regions in the country. Mr. Ramit Singal, co-author of the study, found the tiny frog and asked the assistance of Mr. Seshadri, a doctoral student from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS and Gubbi Labs chief scientist Gururaja KV, who all worked to describe and name the new frog.
"The laterite rock formations date as far back as the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary and are considered to be wastelands in-spite of their intriguing geological history. We identify knowledge gaps in our understanding of the genus Microhyla from the Indian subcontinent and suggest ways to bridge them," the researchers said in the paper published online in the journal PLOS ONE.
The new tiny frog is colored pale brown with black patterns on its flank, feet, hands and dorsum. It creates a call that can be mistaken for that of a cricket.
"By naming the frog after its habitat, we hope to draw attention to the endangered rock formations that are of ecological importance," said Mr. Seshadri adding that the discovery could change the perception of people on the region they called "wastelands".
The researchers call for conservation interventions since laterite areas especially in India do not receive protection and are just considered wastelands. Protecting these regions is important and implementing interventions will prevent further degradation. Policies that may govern habitats should be explored to protect the laterite areas that are important to the survival of Microhyla laterite.
"Since M. laterite appears to be restricted to laterite rock formations along the West coast, further research on determining divergence times of M. laterite and testing for an association with laterite formations would enable a better understanding of biogeography, systematics and paleo-ecology," the researchers added.