Starry dwarf frog, “oddball” frog species in India’s Western

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Starry dwarf frog, “oddball” frog species in India’s Western .

Scientists have discovered a new “oddball” frog species in India’s Western Ghats: Meet the starry dwarf frog, an expert hider that has remained off the grid for millions of years.

The frog was named Astrobatrachus kurichiyana for its constellation-like marks and the indigenous people of Kurichiyarmala, the hilly area where it was spotted, according to a Florida Museum of Natural History press release. The scientists, which published their analysis in the journal PeerJ, found that A. kurichiyana is the sole member of Astrobatrachinae, an ancient lineage that separated from other amphibians in the past, The Independent reported.

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“This is an oddball frog – it has no close sister species for maybe tens of millions of years,” David Blackburn, associate curator of herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said in the press release. “With frogs, there are still ancient lineages out there awaiting discovery. This gives us one more puzzle piece to think about deep time.”

The starry dwarf frog has a unique appearance: It’s dark brown, has a bright orange underbelly, and it’s speckled with pale blue dots. The frog camouflages with wet leaf litter, and they’re very hard to spot unless you look closely.

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Kartik Shanker and Seenapuram Palaniswamy Vijayakumar initially discovered the starry dwarf frog during a study of the Western Ghats, and eventually assembled a research team to analyze the frog’s genetics, skeleton, and internal features. CT technology enabled the team to study the starry dwarf frog and learn more about its amphibian lineage.

The team found that the starry dwarf frog’s closest kin are the family Nyctibatrachidae, a group of approximately 30 species from India and Sri Lanka. However, their last common ancestor could go back millions of years, since they’re not closely related to some modern frogs.

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The starry dwarf frog still remains a mystery to scientists though: They would like to explore its life cycle, the sound of its call, and if it’s endangered with further research. If scientists learn more about the starry dwarf frog, they can better understand the biodiversity makeup of the Western Ghats region as well.

“These frogs are relics. They persisted so long. This lineage could have been knocked off at any point in time,” Vijayakumar said in the press release. “Irrespective of who we are, we should be celebrating the very fact that these things exist.”

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