Meet India’s starry dwarf frog, lone member of newly discovered ancient lineage

A tiny thumbnail-sized new frog species has been discovered in India’s Western Ghats, a ‘hotspot’ for amphibian discoveries.

The frog’s constellation-like markings makes it an exceptionally good camouflager among the wet leaves of its surroundings and may explain why it has escaped notice for so long, say scientists.

The new species is the only member of an ancient lineage that goes back tens of millions of years and also represents the discovery of a new subfamily.

The new species has been named Astrobatrachus kurichiyana, after its ‘starry’ body markings and the indigenous people of the Kurichiyarmala hill range where it was found.

The frog is not only a new species, its family tree it also represents a new subfamily that has been classified by scientists as Astrobatrachinae.

Dr David Blackburn, the associate curator of herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said: ‘This is an oddball frog – it has no close sister species for maybe tens of millions of years.’

 ‘With frogs, there are still ancient lineages out there awaiting discovery. This gives us one more puzzle piece to think about deep time.’

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