Friday, June 23, 2017

[Herpetology • 2017] Description of Four New Species of Burrowing Frogs in the Fejervarya rufescens complex (Dicroglossidae) with Notes on Morphological Affinities of Fejervarya Species in the Western Ghats

Fejervarya kadarFejervarya manoharani,
Fejervarya neilcoxi Fejervarya cepfi

Garg & Biju, 2017


The Rufescent Burrowing Frog, Fejervarya rufescens, is thought to have a wide distribution across the Western Ghats in Peninsular India. This locally abundant but secretive species has a short breeding period, making it a challenging subject for field studies. We sampled 16 populations of frogs morphologically similar to F. rufescens in order to understand the variation among populations found across the Western Ghats. Our study shows significant morphological and genetic differences among the sampled populations, suggesting that F. ‘rufescens’ is a complex of several undescribed species. Using evidence from morphology and genetics, we confirm the presence of five distinct species in this group and formally describe four as new. The new species were delineated using a phylogeny based on three mitochondrial genes (16S, COI and Cytb) and a haplotype network of a nuclear gene (Rag1). Hereafter, the distribution of F. rufescens is restricted to the state of Karnataka and adjoining regions of northern Kerala. Three new species (Fejervarya kadar sp. nov., Fejervarya manoharani sp. nov. and Fejervarya neilcoxi sp. nov.) are from regions south of Palghat gap in the state of Kerala, and one (Fejervarya cepfi sp. nov.) from the northern Western Ghats state of Maharashtra. These findings indicate that Fejervarya frogs of the Western Ghats are more diverse than currently known. Our results will also have implications on the conservation status of F. rufescens, which was previously categorized as Least Concern based on its presumed wide geographical distribution. Furthermore, in order to facilitate a better taxonomic understanding of this region’s fejervaryan frogs, we divide all the known Fejarvarya species of the Western Ghats into four major groups—Fejervarya nilagirica group, Fejervarya rufescens group, Fejervarya sahyadris group and Fejervarya syhadrensis group, based on their morphological affinities.

Keywords: Amphibians, bioacoustics, multi-gene DNA barcoding, India, integrative taxonomy, molecular phylogeny, new species, species diversity, Western Ghats

Taxonomic accounts and description of new species 

Fejervarya rufescens (Jerdon, 1853) 
Rufescent Burrowing Frog (Daniels 2005)

Original name: Pyxicephalus rufescens Jerdon, 1853. Catalogue of reptiles inhabiting the Peninsula of India, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 22: 522–534. 

Fejervarya kadar sp. nov. 
Kadar Burrowing Frog

Etymology. The species is named after the Kadar tribe of Kerala, who live in the Vazhachal forest where the type series was collected. We enjoyed their support and hospitality during amphibian field studies in the region. The specific epithet kadar is treated as an invariable noun in apposition to the generic name. 

Fejervarya manoharani sp. nov. 
Manoharan’s Burrowing Frog 
Etymology: This species is named for Mr TM Manoharan, who severed as the Head of Kerala Forest Department for over a decade, for providing encouragement as well as personal financial support to SDB during the initial phases of his scientific career. The species epithet manoharani is treated as a noun in the genitive case. 

Fejervarya neilcoxi sp. nov. 
Neil Cox’s Burrowing Frog

Etymology: This species is named for Dr Neil Cox, Manager of the IUCN-Conservation International Biodiversity Assessment Unit. Neil has been associated with the IUCN Red List in a variety of capacities including species assessment and management, and the new species is named particularly in appreciation of his contribution towards the Global Amphibian Assessment. The species epithet neilcoxi is treated as a noun in the genitive case.

Fejervarya cepfi sp. nov. 
CEPF Burrowing Frog

Etymology. The species is named after the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for its effort to protect global biodiversity hotspots by providing grants in general, and specifically for a grant supporting research and conservation planning in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot through the Project Western Ghats Network of Protected Areas for Threatened Amphibians (WNPATA) to SDB (University of Delhi). The specific epithet cepfi is treated as a noun in the genitive case.

  Sonali Garg and S.D. Biju. 2017.  Description of Four New Species of Burrowing Frogs in the Fejervarya rufescens complex (Dicroglossidae) with notes on Morphological Affinities of Fejervarya Species in the Western Ghats. 
Zootaxa. 4277(4); 451–490.  DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4277.4.1


 S K. Kiran, V. S. Anoop, K. C. Sivakumar, Raghunathan Dinesh, J. P. Mano, Deuti Kaushik and George Sanil. 2017. An Additional Record of Fejervarya manoharani Garg and Biju from the Western Ghats with A Description of Its Complete Mitochondrial Genome. Zootaxa. 4277(4); 491–502.  DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4277.4.2

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