The year 2017 seems to have been a good one in India as far as the discovery of new species goes. Specimens new to science were being revealed even in the later half. Biologists have discovered a new species of frog from the Western Ghats, in the South Indian state of Kerala (which seems to have an unusual abundance of amphibian species, many of them endemic). Christened the Mewa Singh’s Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus mewasinghi), it inhabits Peruvannamuzhi in the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary and belongs to the genus Nyctibatrachus that is endemic to the Western Ghats of South India.

These frogs are called Night Frogs and there are a total of 36 species. Along with the (monotypic) genus Lankanectes, they form the Nyctibatrachidae family of frogs that are endemic to South India and Sri Lanka. Like the Western Ghats, the Northeast of India is also a biodiversity hotspot. And the two species of the Family Zingiberaceae that have been discovered hail from this region. The first one is called Hedychium chingmeianum and was found in Chingmei Village of the Tuensang District of Nagaland. The second has been named Caulokaempferia dinabandhuensis and is native to the hills of Ukhrul District , Manipur.

Given below are excerpts from articles appearing in The Hindu newspaper describing these new additions to South Asian flora and fauna:

‘Two new Ginger species found in the Northeast’ by Shiv Sahay Singh (December 31, 2017)

Scientists have discovered two new species of Ginger in easternmost districts, Ukhrul in Manipur and Tuensang in Nagaland, both bordering Myanmar. Hedychium chingmeianum, the species discovered in Tuensang district, is an epiphytic plant and grows on tall trees, while Caulokaempferia dinabandhuensis was found growing in rock crevices, boulders and humus rich soil in the Shirui Hills, where the highest peak stands at an elevation of 2,938 metres. Two Botanical Survey of India (BSI) scientists, Nripemo Odyou and Dilip Kumar Roy, found the plant Hedychium chingmeianum, growing on tree trunks at Chingmei village in Tuensang district. The species Caulokaempferia dinabandhuensis was discovered by Biseshwori Thongam and Bipin Konsam of the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development. The species has beautiful oval-shaped pink flowers which appear in June-July. It was during a trip to Ukhrul hills that Dinabandhu Sahoo, director of the IBSD, spotted this species. The scientists named the species after Mr. Dinabandhu Sahoo.

‘Malabar Sanctuary home to new Night Frog species’ by the Staff Reporter (December 31, 2017)

A new frog from Kerala is the latest contribution to the spurt in amphibian discoveries across India; scientists have just discovered the Mewa Singh’s Night frog, belonging to a genus endemic to the Western Ghats, from Kozhikode’s Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary. Using tissue samples of 10 collected specimens, the scientists analysed portions of two genes and found that it varied enough from other closely-related species to make the Mewa Singh’s night frog a different species. They also found that the frog’s genetically closest relatives are the Athirappilly Night Frog (found in Thrissur and Idukki) and the Kempholey Night Frog (found in the northern Western Ghats of Kerala and Karnataka). The frog has been named after wildlife scientist Mewa Singh, in honour of his contributions to behavioural ecology and primate studies.What is unusual is that the frog’s genetically closest relative — the Athirappilly Night Frog — is found far away and across the Palakkad Gap, says Mr. Molur. “Hence the species is also unique from a genetic perspective,” he says. Frogs in the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as Night Frogs, are found only in the Western Ghats mountain range.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons is of a Beddome’s Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus beddomii). Like its newly discovered cousins, the Mewa Singh’s Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus mewasinghi), it too is endemic to the Western Ghats and is named in honour of a naturalist, in this case, Colonel Richard Henry Beddome (1830-1911). The photograph was uploaded by Mr. David V Raju.

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