The Purple Frog – Living in the shadow of the dinosaurs

The Nasikabatrachus  sahyadrensis, commonly known as the Purple frog, shared the world with the dinosaurs 70 million years ago. Considered a ‘once-in-a-century’ find, it has established a new frog family, Nasikabatrachidae, and is the solitary representative of the family.

The Purple frog has a hugely bloated body with short and stout limbs. It is endemic to the Western Ghats and has been found only in two places- Kattapana and near the Idukki town, both in the Idukki district in the Cardamom hills of Kerala. While it is possible that the species could exist in other places in the Western Ghats, there have been no sightings yet. Till date, only 135 Purple frogs have been found, of which only three were females. For most part of the year, the Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis stays below the ground. It only comes to the surface for a few weeks each year, during the breeding season. It generally breeds in ponds close to streams. The IUCN Red List has categorized the Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis as an endangered species. Sadly, its population is still reducing. With increasing use of land for cultivation of cardamom, coffee and ginger, this interesting underground dweller may not see the light of day for long.

It is the closest living relative of the Seychelles frog (Sooglossidae family). The Purple frog shares a common ancestry with these frogs that dates back to several million years. These two families have been geographically separated by the continental drift, when the landmass of India separated from Africa.

The Purple frog was first discovered in the year 2003 by S. d. Biju and F. Bossyut.

It is ranked 4th in the list of EDGE (Evolutionary distinct and Globally Endangered) species of amphibians.


“This article was originally published in the July-August 2012 Saevus magazine.”

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