BANGALORE: Swamps in Western Ghats, where many endemic plants and animals thrive, are rapidly being converted to areca and paddy farms, said experts.
A team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science and Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) recently discovered a ‘night frog’ in the Myristica swamps (a type of fresh water swamp found only in two places in India) of Kathalikan near Jog Falls. The frog belongs to the genus Nyctibatrachus — ancient frogs found in India.
Around 27 species of this genus has already been identified and are endemic to the Western Ghats. The male covers the eggs with mud to camouflage it.
The scientists decided it was a new species on the basis of its morphology, call, behaviour and genetics.
“If the biodiversity of the Western Ghats is to be preserved, all states where the range passes should help to preserve them,” say experts.
Dr G Ravikanth, scientist at ATREE and a member of the team that discovered the frog said, “Myristica swamps are composed of a species such as Myristica fatua, Gymnacranthera canarica and Semecarpus species. These are wild varieties of nutmeg plants. Since swamps are the only areas with water in summer, they are ideal habitats for paddy and arecanut. These trees have a unique modification of roots like mangroves. The space and clay under these roots is an ideal habitat for wildlife. Hopefully, this discovery would draw attention on conserving these unique habitats in the Western Ghats.”
Experts also agree that the Western Ghats harbour a high degree of biodiversity and must be conserved along with the Myristica swamps. Dr KP Dinesh, post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Ecological Sciences and another member of the team, said, “This is the only frog in the world that shows this specialised behaviour. Females tend to take care of the progeny. In this case, the female goes away and the male takes care of the eggs.”
Prof R Sukumar, who is one of the authors of the Ecology Expert Panel Report, said the northern part of the Western Ghats are more exploited.
The highest population of tigers is in the Western Ghats.
The Ghats have had several indigenous tribes such as Kotas, Kurumbas, Todas, Badagas, Irulas, Soligas, Betta Kurumbas, Kanis, Arayans, Malasars and Chota mayikas (stone gatherers).