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New species of 'Starry dwarf frog' found in Western Ghats

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

A 'secretive' new species of orange-bellied with a brown back, covered in tiny spots that resemble a starry sky, has been discovered in mountain range, one of the world's hotspots, scientists said.

The thumbnail-sized species was named Astrobatrachus kurichiyana for its constellation-like markings and the indigenous people of Kurichiyarmala, the hill range where it was found, according to the study published in the journal PeerJ.

However, A kurichiyana is not only a new species to science. It is the sole member of an ancient lineage, a long branch on the tree of life that researchers have classified as a new subfamily, Astrobatrachinae.

"This is an oddball -- it has no close sister species for maybe tens of millions of years," said David Blackburn, the of herpetology at the Museum of in the US.

"With frogs, there are still ancient lineages out there awaiting discovery. This gives us one more puzzle piece to think about deep time," Blackburn said in a statement.

Dark brown with a bright orange underbelly and speckled with pale blue dots, the frog camouflages well in wet leaf litter, and only a few individuals have been found.

"The colouration was the first thing that stood out to me, these starry patterns with a blue tinge," said Seenapuram Palaniswamy Vijayakumar, of the species description and now a postdoctoral fellow at in the US.

"We hadn't seen anything like this before," Vijayakumar said.

However, the starry dwarf frog nearly got overlooked in the crush of new species that Vijayakumar and his then-doctoral were finding on a series of expeditions to the Western Ghats, a 1,600-kilometres-long mountain range along India's southwestern coast.

Vijayakumar and Shanker, at the in Bengaluru, had designed a meticulous study, covering multiple elevations, habitats and hill ranges to record and map the region's frogs, lizards and snakes.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 13 2019. 13:00 IST