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Delhi professor discovers three new legless amphibians

The new family has been named Chikilidae, consisting of tailless burrowing caecilians, which evolved separately from other caecilian species more than 140 million years ago.

NEW DELHI Three new species of legless amphibians were discovered from forests of northeast India. Amphibian researcher professor SD Biju, professor, University of Delhi, popularly known as 'Delhi's Frogman' led the team that made this discovery together with his PhD student Rachunliu G Kamei.

 

 

This discovery is a result of collaboration between DU and The Natural History Museum, London through The Royal Society London/ CSIR, India initiatives.

 

The research team had two collaborators from The Natural History Museum, London - Drs David Gower and Mark Wilkinson. The new find has been published in the latest issue of Zootaxa (International Journal of Zoological Taxonomy). In a rare scientific feat in 2012 February, which was described as 'discovery of the year', Biju and his team found a new family of legless amphibians commonly known as caecilians.

 

The new family has been named Chikilidae, consisting of tailless burrowing caecilians, which evolved separately from other caecilian species more than 140 million years ago.

 

In fact Biju has the rare feat of discovering two new families of amphibians - one in 2003 (the famous purple frog) after a gap of 100 years. The three new species discovered belongs to the to the caecilian amphibian family Chikilidae that was described in the year 2012.

 

According to Biju, "Worldwide, there are less than 200 species of caecilians. The discovery came following an unprecedented fieldwork effort of soil-digging surveys (involving over 1200 person hours of soil digging) in about 250 localities spread over five years (2006-2010) in various parts of every Northeast Indian state (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim and Darjeeling district of West Bengal) such that the sampling was truly representative of the biogeographic region. The work is one of the most extensive systematic program of dedicated caecilian surveys ever attempted and the first in Northeast India.

 

The results were based on morphological traits and using molecular (DNA) markers. Chikilidae comprises a group of caecilians that has been shown to be of ancient lineage (about 140 million years old) with its closest relatives in Africa, and so far known to be restricted to only the Northeast India.

 

This publication is unique because the family Chikilidae contained so far only one species (Chikila fulleri) known only from a broken museum specimen, which is over 100 years old. The caecilian-dedicated soil-digging surveys across the Northeast India revealed that three species of Chikila were unknown to science. The three new species have been named as Chikila alcocki, Chikila darlong and Chikila gaiduwani.

 

 

Source:The Hindu 5 June 2013