'Extinct' Indian Tree Frog Is Actually a New Genus


In 2007, while trekking through the jungles of northeast India in search of new frog species, noted Indian biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju accidentally re-discovered an old one: a tiny tree amphibian that hadn't been seen in almost 150 years.

According to the BBC, Biju heard “a full musical orchestra coming from the tree tops” and decided to investigate. He ended up finding a golf ball-sized animal that he identified as Polypedates jerdonii, a frog that was last spotted in the wild around 1870. The long-lost frog may have stayed hidden for all these years because it lives in tree holes up to 19 feet above ground. Since the remote region also contains few scientists, it’s also likely that no one was around to catalog its existence.

But it turns out that Biju—who has discovered dozens of frog species in India—found more than just an "extinct" frog. A recent study published in PLOS ONE shows that the frog is so unique, it needs a new name. Frankixalus jerdonii, as it's now known, has such distinct DNA, feeding behavior, and anatomy that it represents an entirely new genus, the researchers say. 

Unlike other frogs, the BBC notes, F. jerdonii adults eat vegetation—not insects or larvae. Its tadpoles are also unique: They hatch from eggs laid on the inside walls of tree hollows containing small pools of water. There, they’re fed unfertilized eggs by female frogs until they grow into adults. Other unusual features? The study's tadpoles each had eggs in their intestines, and unlike similar species, they didn't have tooth rows.

Luckily, the frog is more plentiful than biologists had previously thought. Now it's up to conservationists to ensure that deforestation and other unsustainable practices don't threaten Frankixalus jerdonii's survival.

[h/t BBC via NPR]