A new species of a narrow-mouthed frog was discovered by Indians and the National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers in the laterite rock formations around the coastal town of Manipal, Udupi District, Karnataka State in India. They named it Microhyla laterite (M. laterite) which is a 1.6-centimetre pale brown frog that has black markings on its back, flanks, hands and feet.

The frog, about the size of a thumbnail, was seen by study author Ramit Singal during a field survey around India’s coastal plains. Apparently, the sound of M. Laterite is similar to that of a cricket.

An adult female of the newly described frog Microhyla laterite that was first spotted in laterite habitats in and around the coastal town of Manipal, India.. Photo by Seshadri K S.

An adult female of the newly described frog Microhyla laterite that was first spotted in laterite habitats in and around the coastal town of Manipal, India. Photo by Seshadri K.S.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE on March 9, involved analysing the frog’s genes, body structure, colour and vocalisations and compared these with three other frog species. The M. laterite was found to be distinct from the other species and is closely related to another species endemic in Western Ghats called M. sholigari.

According to lead researcher Seshadri K.S., a Ph.D. student from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, they named the frog after its habitat to attract awareness to the endangered status of laterite rock formations. On top of that, the M. laterite has also been categorised as an endangered species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN’s Red List guidelines. Moreover, the M. laterite is limited to its 150-square kilometre habitat in southwest India. However, Singal laments that these areas are not protected.

For this reason, the researchers are calling for public efforts to ensure the species’ survival. The researchers say they are planning to investigate the evolutionary ecology of M. laterite and its connection to laterite rock formation in their next research.

“How amphibians persist outside protected areas is not known. This critically endangered frog can be used as a basis for declaring its native laterite habitats as ‘conservation reserves’ or ‘biological heritage areas’ under existing legislations in India, allowing us to further our knowledge and understanding of amphibians,” concludes Seshadri.