New Frog Species Discovered In Meghalaya's Dark Caves

SHILLONG: 17 April 2023 (PTI Source)

Shillong & Pune Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered a new species of frog called Amolops siju from the Siju cave system in Meghalaya, India.

This frog found in a cave is the second cave-dwelling frog species to be discovered in India, the first being Micrixalus spelunca found nine (9) years ago in Tamil Nadu. Amolops siju is a dark cave-dwelling frog and is the first cave-dwelling cascade frog from northeast India.

The frog is called "Siju" after the 4-km natural Siju Cave in south Garo hills of Meghalaya. The scientists have described Amolops siju in the Journal of Animal Diversity.

The ZSI team did not observe any troglobitic or cave-adapted features in the collected specimens from the twilight and dark zones of the Siju cave, indicating that Amolops siju may not be an exclusive cave-dwelling species. The scientists from ZSI have identified this as the fourth species of cascade frog from the northeast. Despite collecting the specimens from the areas with low light in the cave, the research team did not discover any adaptations specific to cave life, such as troglobitic features.

The Amolops siju is a newly discovered species of frog that has been recorded in the country. Unlike the majority of amphibians in the Ranidae family that belong to the Amolops genus, this frog is a resident of dark caves. The species has been named after the Siju cave system of Meghalaya, where four specimens were collected.

Only one other species of cave-dwelling frog, Micrixalus spelunca, has been documented in India, and this discovery marks the second. The discovery of a new species of frog from a cave is extremely rare, according to Bhaskar Saikia, one of the authors of the study.

It is the first cave-dwelling cascade frog from the northeast. Molecular studies were conducted on tissue samples of the specimens to determine their specific identity from other species that are already known.

The discovery of Amolops siju brings the total number of cascade frog species described from the northeast to four. The scientists' quartet has also described three other species named Amolops terraorchis, Amolops Chanakya, and Amolops tawang found in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Siju cave complex is recognized as a habitat for over 100 different types of fauna, with the majority being invertebrates like cave spiders, crickets, earthworms, and beetles. The discovery of Amolops siju adds to the growing list of species found in this unique and biodiverse ecosystem.