Croaks all around
Folktales and lore have many references to frogs and toads – all less than complimentary. We bring to you a different perspective of the importance of frogs in the ecosystem.
Amboli is a small village located in southern Maharashtra, close to the town of Sawantwadi. Geographically, Amboli is located in the northern Western Ghats and is thus blessed with an amazing array of biodiversity found all over the region. The thick rainforests, which surround the village of Amboli, spring to life with the arrival of monsoons every year. Snakes, frogs, caecilians and other herpetofauna, which tend to hibernate over much of the dry season, enter a state of hyperdrive to take advantage of the short but bountiful wet season. The Western Ghats is one of the twenty-five biodiversity hotspots of the world and one of the only two present in India. As such, every nook of the Western Ghats teems with numerous life forms. Many of these animals and plants are even endemic to the Western Ghats, naturally found nowhere else on the planet. And in hotspots like Amboli, one can even find life endemic to just that one locality!
Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus)
The Malabar Gliding Frog is probably the most magnificent of all frogs of Amboli. The extensive webbing present in between its toes is used like a parachute to aid its fall while jumping from one tree to another. The brightly-coloured frog is active only for a short period of the year. At the start of the rains, these frogs become active, mate, and usually within a month and a half return to their year-long slumber.
Amboli Toad (Xanthophryne tigerinus)
Another denizen of the forests of Amboli is endemic and thus aptly named Amboli Toad. Since it is known to occur only in one location and its population is thought to be declining, the frog is declared as a Critically endangered species. This tiny toad adorns bright yellow colours, dashed with a few dark-brown stripes, when ready to mate, earning the alternate common name, the Tiger Toad.
Castle Rock Wrinkled Frog (Nyctibatrachus petraeus)
Males of the Castle rock Wrinkled Frog are found in flowing streams, croaking their sweet notes to attract the females. The eggs are laid on broad leaves overhanging the streams. Wrinkled frogs belong to the family nyctibatrachidae, containing just one genus and about 28 species, all found exclusively in the Western Ghats. Nyctibatrachus literally means ‘night frog’, referring to the nocturnal habit of these frogs.
Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus)
The Indian Bullfrog is the largest frog in India, growing to a significant size of about 10 inches. It is also the most commonly seen frog in India, adjusted to inhabit manmade ponds and paddy fields. With the help of muscular hind legs, the frog can leap long distances to avoid danger. These hind legs are considered to be a delicacy in some parts of the world, where frogs are captured for their legs.
Marbled Short-nosed Frog (Ramanella mormorata)
Short-nosed Frogs are named so because of their blunt snouts. The Marbled Short-nosed Frog is another endangered frog endemic to the Western Ghats and has a very limited range spread across southern Maharashtra, Goa and northern Karnataka. Although chiefly terrestrial, this frog is an adept climber and climbs up tree trunks and walls to hide in hollows and cavities within walls.
Bicoloured Frog (Clinotarsus curtipes)
The Bicoloured Frog is a common frog spread throughout the Western Ghats. A breeding male is distinctly orange-coloured from above and dark brown from below. This frog is found in a variety of habitats and can tolerate human disturbance to a certain extent. Although still common in many areas through its range, habitat loss and decreasing numbers are pushing this frog closer to being endangered.
Dobson’s Burrowing Frog (Sphaerotheca dobsonii)
The Dobson’s Burrowing Frog and other burrowing frogs of the genus are unique in their method of digging, using their hind legs instead of the front legs like other frogs. The hind legs are equipped with a digging apparatus called ‘metatarsal tubercle’, a hard growth present on the foot. These large, sluggish frogs are terrestrial and distributed widely across Western and Eastern Ghats.
Common Indian Tree Frog (Polypedates maculates)
The Common Indian Tree Frog is common across much of southern Asia and found in a broad range of habitats, including large human settlements. The long digits are barely webbed as the frog lives on trees and seldom needs to swim. Instead, the fingertips are equipped with adhesive pads that provide the frog with an excellent grip on vertical surfaces.
Reddish Burrowing Frog (Zakerana rufescens)
Another endemic frog of the Western Ghats, the Reddish Burrowing Frog also tolerates a wide range of habitats. Generally drab-coloured, the frog starts to get a brick red colour as it approaches the breeding season. Although distributed widely and quite common over most of its range, the frog is poorly studied and very little is known about its natural history.
Sahyadri Rainpool Frog (Minervarya sahyadris)
The Sahyadri Rainpool Frog is a semi-aquatic terrestrial frog and is closely associated with rainwater puddles formed in open grassy areas. The tiny frog grows just barely more than 2 cm but has a considerably loud call. This is another poorly studied species from the Western Ghats and a deeper look might reveal the presence of more of its kind.
Sahyadri Rainpool Frog
Frogs in the news
- Lately, frogs have been in discussions as being the group of animals most affected by global warming. Chytridiomycosis, a type of fungal disease, has been affecting frog populations worldwide. The rising temperatures result in low immunity among frogs, resulting in them being more susceptible to the deathly disease. While close to one-third of the species are considered to be threatened with extinction due to this and factors such as habitat loss, over 120 are already feared to be lost.
- Frogs have been in the news in India recently due to the discovery of several new species from the Western Ghats. More than 100 new species have been discovered in the last 10 years or so. As late as in May 2014, Dr SD Biju and his team described 14 new species of ‘dancing frogs’, a whole new family endemic to the Western Ghats, adding to the already impressive list of frogs that are endemic here.
- Frogs are an important part of most food chains in wetland ecosystems, acting both as prey and predator. If frogs disappear, several food chains will get disturbed and this, in turn, will have far-reaching effects on our ecosystems. Many species are also bio-indicators and their disappearance from a particular place is a tell-tale sign of environmental stress of some form. Protecting frogs literally translates into protecting a habitat and thus protecting the planet for ourselves.
Rain-Rain Come Again!
Meteorologists predict a global lessening of monsoon almost every year. But for the frogs of Amboli, this can mean only one thing – death! The Amboli Toad lives on the small plateaus within the rainforests of Amboli. As the gaps on these rocky pools get filled with water, these toads breed and lay eggs into the temporary pools. When the rains suddenly vanish, some of the pools start drying, leaving the tadpoles to cluster around the precious moisture remaining in the ground. If conditions persist, very few toads will mature, slashing down the population of this endangered toad.
Read also: Revisiting the moments in the wild
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