Faunal Diversity in India: Amphibia
This is an extract from
FAUNAL DIVERSITY IN INDIA
J. R. B. Alfred
A. K. Das
A. K. Sanyal.
Zoological Survey of India,
( J. R. B. Alfred was
Director, Zoological Survey of India)
Amphibians are poikilothermic (cold blooded) vertebrates with smooth skins leading a bimodal life -life in water as well as land. They mayor may not possess limbs and tails. Amphibian skin is sensitive and devoid Of visible scales. Much of the gas exchanges in amphibians occur through their skin. The skin secretion generally protects the skin from dessication. In some Neotropical amphibians (Family-Dendrobi/idae), this secretion has extremely toxic properties. The fact that the skin has to be moist to be functional, restricts the distribution of most amphibians to the largely wet and warm parts of the world. In most amphibians the life history is organized into eggs, larval and adult stages. The eggs may be freely deposited inside or near water or carried about by the parents. Eggs hatch into free-living larvae or tadpole, though in certain species of tropical frogs, the eggs hatch and grow within the body of a parent or they directly develop into tiny froglets. Direct development is known amongst species of Pili/an/lis in India. Amphibians include salamanders, caecilians, toads and frogs. They are the lowest group of animals among the vertebrates.
Status Of The Taxon
Global and Indian Status of amphibian diversity are shown in Table 1. Table-l Estimated Amphibian Diversity
The abundance of amphibian species is very much unevenin India. The highest concentration of genera and species are in the Northeast region and Western Ghats (Table-2). The magnitude of the disparity between the two areas of highest diversity and the others shown in the table is partly a reflection of very unequal collecting intensity. This effect seems especially apparent in the case of Eastern Ghats (Table-2).
The semi-deciduous forests of that area provide good habitats for a number of species. Yet, no endemic arboreal anuran species has been recorded from the Eastern Ghats of Orissa or Andhra Pradesh. The high diversity regions are also those that until relatively recently had large areas of tropical evergreen forests, structurally complex environments, providing the maximum number of micro habitats. The interaction between forest environments and diversity is clearly seen when the proportions of bush and tree dwelling frogs of Northeast India and Western Ghats are compared to those in the other regions.
A small group of anuran species which are overlapping between regions are Bllfo melallostictlls, Microlzyla orallta, Ellplzlyctis cyanoplzlyctis Limnonectes limnoclzaris, Hoplobatraclzrs tigerina and Polypedates leucomystax. These species generally live in close association with man wherever they occur and all but the last have their ranges far beyond the borders of India. The most distinctive regional fauna are from the Northeastern India and the Western Ghats. Chanda (1986), (1989), (1990), recorded largest concentration of 56 species from Northeast India, whose ranges extend mainly to Southeast Asia or China through Burma. In Western Ghats as already noted, the largest number of endemic forms occur. Most of the Indian caecilians are confined to West Peninsular region. Two of the genera and 13 out of 16 species being restricted to Peninsular region. Intensive collection and observation in the near future will certainly increase the number of endemics known from the East Peninsular and Gangetic Plains.
Despite the present gaps in the faunal lists of large areas and in the known ranges of individual species, it is clear that Indian amphibian species constitute three distributional types: (i) species confined to Western Ghats, the largest unit; (ii) species known in India, only from northeast and (iii) a set of essentially ubiquitous species that comprise the bulk of the known fauna between the Western Ghats and Northeast.
Table-2 Diversity in different geographical regions of India
The Indian amphibian fauna has a number of endemic genera and species. In Western Ghats, a total of 92 species are found to be endemic and 35 species are endemic to Northeast India. One species, namely the Himalayan Newt, Pleurodeles verrucosus is at present included in Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 as amended from time to time. This species is known only from Darjeeling, Sikkim and Manipur. This is the only species of Salamander known from India and the population being in pockets is considered endangered. However, the exact population status of this species is not known. The Malabar tree toad, Pedostibe tllberClIlosus from Malabar (Kerala) and the Garo hills tree toad Pedostibes kempi from Tura, Garo hills, (Meghalaya) have also become extremely rare. VALUE Amphibians are of great scientific as well as economic importance. Amphibians are least harmful in nature and never devour or destroy agricultural crops, fruits, vegetation, etc. On the contrary, their food mainly consists of small insects and their larvae, snails, etc., which are pests of cultivated crops and vectors of diseases. Therefore a decline in amphibian population can have an adverse effect on the ecosystem as a whole. Moreover, a number of species are being used for biological laboratories as well as in educational institutions.
Due to the modern agricultural technology, the ecosystem of our country has been adversely affected. The indiscriminate use of pesticides and artifical fertilisers has caused Significant changes in the quality of water in which the amphibians spend the sensitive part of their life. On the other hand, the natural habitats of the amphibians, viz., wetlands, have been drastically reduced due to urbanisation and industrial development. The extensive deforestation in our country has also damaged the natural habitats of the amphibians. Thus, the habitat destruction, over exploitation, indiscriminate capture of frogs and pollution have not only reduced the amphibian population of our country but also disturbed the ecological balance resulting in the multiplication of such insect vectors as mosquitoes which constitute major food item.
It is unfortunate that still not much attention has been paid to the conservation of amphibians. If the present rate of exploitation and habitat destructioncontinues the frog population would dwindle, a trend already discernible since 1980. Thus, it is hightime for taking steps to conserve the amphibian resources of India for which following meaures are suggested: (i) A number of frog breeding centres should be established for artificial breeding of frogs and other commercially important amphibian species; (ii) as the mortality rate of the tadpoles are very high, steps should be taken to collect and rear them in artificial ponds to increase the population of the adults; (iii) rigid restriction regarding the period of collection and size of the frogs must be observed so as to provide them achance for breeding and (iv) the life cycles of the vulnerable forms should be studied in the laboratory.
Annandale, N. 1909. Notes on Indian Batrachians. Rec. Indian Mils. Calcutta. 3: 282¬ 286. Boulenger, G. A. 1890. The Fallna of Bri/ish India, inclllding Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Batrachia. Taylor and Francies. London, XVIII + 541 p. Boulenger, G. A. 1920. A monograph of the South Asian, Papuan, Melanesian and Australian frongs of the genus Rana. Rec. Indian MilS., Calcutta. 20 : 1-226. Chanda, S. K. 1986. On a collection of anuran amphibians from Sikkim Himalayas with description of a new species of Rana. /. Bengal Nat Hist. Soc. N.S. 5 (2) : 140-151. Chanda, S. K. 1990. A new frog of the genus Rana (Ranidae) from Manipur, Northeast India. Hamadryad 15 (1) : 16-17. Chanda,S. K. 1991. Fallnal resources ofGanga Part-I: 51-57, Zoological Survey oflndia, Calcutta. Chanda, S. K. 1994. Anura (Amphibia) fanua of northeast India. Mem. zool. Surv. India. 18 : 1-143. Chanda,S. K. 1995. Amphibian fauna of Meghalaya, Zoological Survey of India, State Fauna Series (4) Part-I: 455-482. Chanda,S. K. and A. K. ghosh 1989. A new frog of the genus Philautus Gistel from the Proposed Namdapha Biosphere Resource, Arunachal Pradesh, northeast India. J. Bombay Nat. His/. Soc. 86 (2) : 215-217. Chanda,S. K. (In Press). Handbook on Indian Amphibians : Zoological Survey of India. Das, I. & S. K. Chanda 1998. A New species of Phi/alltus (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from Eastern Ghats. South-eastern India. /. SOlltll Asian Nat. Hist. 3 (1) : 103-112. Dutta, S. K. 1992. Amphibians of India: updated species list with distribution record. Hamadryad, 17 : 1-13. Frost, D. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. Allen Press Lawrence, Kansas, U. S. A. : 1-732. Parker, H. W. 1934. A monograph of the frogs of the family Microhylidae. Trustees of the British Museum, London. viii + 208 pp. Pillai, R. 5. 1986. Amphibian fauna of Silent Valley, Kerala. Rec. zoaf. SlIrv. fndia, Calcutta. 84 (1-4) : 229-242. Pillai, R. S. 1991. Contribution to the amphibian fauna of Andaman and Nicobar with a new record of mangrove frog Rana cancrivona. Rec. zoof. Surv. India, Calcutta. 88 : 41-44. Pillai, R. S. & S. K. Chanda 1977. Two new species of frog (Ranidae) from Khasi Hills, India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 74 (1) : 136-140.
Rao, C. R. N. 1937. On some new forms of batrachia from S. India. Proc. Ind. Acad Scii. vi (6) : 387-427. Ravichandran, M. S. 1996. Studies on the amphibia of South-Western Ghats. Zoo's Print 11 (8) : 41-42. Sarkar, A. K. 1984. Ecological studies on the amphibian fauna of Gujarat. Bull. zool. Soc. India 6 (1-3) : 325-333. Satyamurti, T. S. 1967. The south Indian amphibia in the Collection of the Madras Government Museum. Bull. Madras Govt. Mus. (N.5.) 7 (2) : 1-90. Taylor, E. H. 1968. TIle Caecilians of tile world: a taxonomic review, University of the Kansas Press, Lawrence, Kansas 848 pp. Yazdani, G. M. 8< S. K. Chanda. 1971. A new toad, Ansonia meghalayana (Bafonidae) from Meghalaya, Assam. India with observations on its breeding on Pandanus furartlls Rexb. (Pandanales : Pandanaceae). f. Assam Sci. Soc., 14 (1) : 76-80.
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Amphibia includes the salamanders, cicilians, toads and frogs, and more than 5000 species are known from the world. They are found in varied ecological conditions from plains to mountains, low to heavy rainfall areas, from riverbeds to ponds, and even in the deserts. Several species prefer to stay permanently ill water, a few of them live in small bushes near the water source, while some others live under boulders, rocks, stones or under decaying logs. A few of them are arboreal or prefer the crevices of rocks and trees, niches among foliage and leaf litters or among loose soil.
Amphibians are least harmful in nature and are found throughout the world from the sea level up to an altitude of aboui 3500 m. They do not cause any depredation to agricultural crops, fruits, vegetation, etc., on the contrary their food mainly consists of small insects and their larvae, algae, snails, etc., which are pests to crops and vectors of some diseases. It is rather unfortunate that these innocent creatures are subjected to indiscriminate killing for commercial purposes. As a result, the food chain is disturbed which consequently invite pests and other harmful vectors to multiply causing a threat to the ecosystem. Many species in recent years, have declined so much SO that active consideration has now been made for their protection.
The Class Amphibia is divided into three orders, namely Gymnophiona, Caudata and Anura.
Gymnophiona: These are limbless, snake-like amphibians which constitute the smallest order among the group. Example, cicilians.
Caudata: These are tailed amphibians. Example, newts and salamanders.
Anura: These are tailless and limbed amphibians and. constitute the largest order among the group. Example, toads and frogs.
Herpetologists carried out research on the taxonomy and distribution of Indian amphibians. Some of the important work are by Gunther (1858, 1861), Cope (1865), Jerdon (1870), Anderson (1871), Stoliczka (1872), Theobold (1872), Thruston (1888), Boulenger (1882, 1883,1890), Sclater (1892), Gostling (1895), etc. Among them, Boulenger made a comprehensive account of the Indian amphibians in the Fauna ofBritish India.
During this period, significant research was carried out on the Indian amphibians. This may be due to the recognition of the economic importance of the group. A few of the important work to mention with are by Fergussion (1904), Annandale (1917-1921), Chibber (1911), Kemp (1911¬1912), Rao (1915-1937), Smith (1917-1935), Wall (1918-1922), Hora (1923), Kampen (1923), Zutshi (1926), Smith (1927,1936), Parker (1928-1934), 'Mahendra (1929), Gray (1934), McCann (1938-1946), Myers (1942), Seshachar (1939), Ramaswamy (1942), Romer (1948), etc.
The Indian Museum took a prominent part in giving encouragement to research on Indian amphibians. T.N. Annandale, founder Director of the Zoological Survey of India, published several interesting findings in the field of Indian amphibians. Kemp (1911-1912) lead the Abor Expedition and increased our knowledge of the Indian amphibians by recording a number of interesting species from the above region. Hora (1921-1922) made some. important observations on the larval stages of amphibians with special reference to torrential streams. Kampen (1923) made a comprehensive account on the amphibian fauna of Indo-Australian region. Smith (1927-1935) made some valuable contributions on the amphibians of Brahmaputra valley, Assam. Parker (1928-1934) published on the microhylid frogs.
For the last four decades, the scientists of the Zoological Survey of India and a few from outside have been working on the Indian amphibians. The study includes the revision of taxa, life history studies and faunal inventory of states. Acharjee and Kriplani (1951) studied the amphibian fauna of Western Himalaya, Murthy (1964) of Rajasthan, Tilak and Hussain (1976) and Tilak and Roy (1985) of Uttar Pradesh, Pillai (1976-1981) of southern India with special reference to Silent Valley, and Shaffer and Koshey (1984) of Kerala.
Mukherjee (1975) in his paper on the 'S.undarban of India and its biota' has also touched the amphibian fauna of that area. Amphibians of central and western Himalayas was studied by Dubois (1978-1980), of Jammu and Kashmir by Duda and Sahi (1977), of Tripura and Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Mansukhani and Sarkar (1980-1981) and Mehta and Rao (1987), of Calcutta (West Bengal) and Gujarat by Sarkar (1984), and of Madhya Pradesh by Saksena, Sarkar and Tiwari (1988). Pillai and Chanda (1973-1981), and Chanda (1986¬1990) have made comprehensive studies on the amphibian fauna of northeastern India, Darjilling (West Bengal) and Sikkim. Sarkar and Sanyal (1985) have studied the amphibians of Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh. Amphibians from Orissa and West Bengal have also been studied.
A number of new taxa have been described from northeastern and southern India by' the scientists of ZSI, namely, Philautus cherrapunjiae Roonwal and Mansukhani 1961, a new genus Bufoides by Pillai and Chanda (1973) and a new species Bufoides meqhalayana Yazdani and Chanda 1971, Rana danieli Pillai, Rana murthii Pillai, Rana mawphlangensis Pillai, Micrixalus nudis Pillai, M. thampii Pillai, Microhyla chakrapani Pillai, Bufo silentvalleyensis Pillai, Philautus shillongensis Pillai and Chanda, Rana bilineata Pillai and Chanda, Rana mawlyndipi Chanda, Rana sinchalensis Chanda, and Philotus swamrupus Chanda.
Yazdani and Chanda (1971) studied the breeding biology of Bufoides meghalayana. Chanda and Talukdar (1973) studied the life history Qf the tree frog of the family Rhacophoridae. Jayaram (1974) contributed on the distribution of some species of Indian amphibians. Inger and Dutra (1986) catalogued the amphibian species from Indian region.
Daniel (1962-1973) and Abdulali (1954-1962) studied the taxonomy, distribution.and ecology of the Indian amphibians. Satyamurthy (1967) worked on the preserved collection of amphibians present in the Madras Government Museum, Madras.
Dutta (1985) from the UtIcal University contributed on the burrowing habits of some species of amphibians from Orissa. Paranjape and Mulherkar (1979) from the University of Pune have made an account of amphibians from Pune. Sahu a'ld Khare (1978-1980) from the Northeastern Hill University have studied the larval taxonomy. Khare and Kiysetuo (1987) have studied the taxonomy and distribution of the amphibian fauna of Nagaland. Singh (1987) reported the occurrence of the Himalayan Newt, Tylotolrilon verrucosus at Manipur. Mallick and Das (1987) made some observations on the spawning behaviour of frogs. Ghate and Padhye (1988) undertook some experimental studies on the microhylid frogs. Das (in press) revised the list of Indian amphibians.
Estimation of Taxa
Thirty one families consisting of 330 genera and 5145 species have so far been reported from the world. Of these, nine families, 32 genera and 204 species occur in India.
Classified estimates of different categories of Indian species in comparison to world species are given below. Family Number ofgenera Number of species World India World IndiiJ Pelobatidae 9 3 98. 6 Bufonidae 18 4 382 22 Hylidae 18 1 485 1 Microhylidae 54 5 230 15 Ranidae 40 10 609 89 Bhacopboridae 14 4 190 55 Salamandridae 9 1 53 1 Ichthyopbidae 6 2 58 11 caecilidae 4 2 43 4
The family Pelobatidae is represented by nine genera of which three Leptobrachium, Megophrys and Scutiger occur in India. Out of six Indian species under this family, L. hassellii is restricted to Meghalaya and M. robusta is found in West Bengal. Rest of the species are found in eastern and western Himalayas. Systematics, ecology and distribution of Indian pelobatids were studied by Boulenger (1890), Acharjee and Kriplani (1951), Daniel (1962-1963), Pillai and Chanda (1973-1976), Dubois (1978-1980) and Duda and Sahi (1978).
Family Bufonidae is represented by 18 genera of which only four namely, Ansonia, Bufo, Bufoides and Pedostibes are found in India. Among them the genus Bufoides is endemic to India. Out of 22 Indian species, seven, A. rubigina, B. brevirostris, B. camortensis, B. silentvalleyensis, Bufoides meghalayana, P. kempi, and P. tuberculosus are endemic. About 50% of the species under this family are found in southern India. Some of the important work on the systematics, distribution and ecology of Indian bufonids are by Guenther (1875), Boulenger (1882, 1919), Soman (1963), Daniel (1962-1975), Satyamurthy (1967), Yazdani and Chanda (1973-1981), Pillai (1981), Mansukhani and Sarkar (1981), Pillai and Chanda (1973-1981), Duda and Sahi (1977), Sahu and Khare (1980), Tilak and Roy (1985), Chanda (1986), Inger and Datta (1986), Khare and Kiysetuo (1986), etc.
A single species Hyla annectens is the sole representative of the family Hylidae in India. This species is restricted to northeastern India. Systematics and distribution of Indian hylids have been studied by Pillai and Chanda (1973-1981)~ Chanda (1986), and Inger and Datta (1986).
Five genera of the family Microhylidae, viz Kaloula, Melanobatrachus, Microhyla. Ramanella and Uperodon occur in India. Out. of 15 Indian species, five namely, M. indicus, Microhyla chakrapani, R. anamalaiensis, R. minor and U. globulosum are endemic. Some of the important work on the taxonomy of this family are by Boulenger (1890), Parker (1923), Ruo (1937), Daniel (1963-1970), Paranjape and Mulherkar (1979), Pillai and Chanda (1973-1981), Inger (1984), Datta (1985), Chanda (1986), Khare and Kiysetuo (1986). Inger and Datta (1986), Mehta and Rao (1987), etc.
Ten genera of family Ranidae are found in India of which two, viz Nyctibranchus and Ranixalus are endemic. Some of the worth mentioning contributions on this family are by Guenther (1858¬1861), Jerdon (1870), Anderson (1871), Rao (1915-1937), Smith (1917-1935), Kampen (1923), McCann (1938-1946), Abdulali (1954-1.962), Satyamurthy (1967), Murthy (1964-1968), Pillai and Chanda (1973-1981), Pillai (1976•1981), Mukherjee (1975), Duda and Sahi (1977), Mansukhani and Sarkar (1980-1981), Dubois (1980), Sahu and Khare (1980); Inger et ale (1984), Mohanti Hejmadi (1985), Chanda (1986), Sarkar and Sanyal (1986), Datta (1986), Khare and Kiysetuo (1986), Ghate and Padhye (1988), etc.
Four genera of family Rhacophoridae are found in India. Out of 55 Indian species 29 are endemic to this country. Some of the important work on the taxonomy and distribution of this family are by Boulenger (1882-1890), Rao (1915-1937), Kemp (1911-1912), Kmapen (1923), Daniel (1962-1975), Satyamurthy (1967), Mahanty Hajmadi (1985), Murthy (1964-1968), Pillai and Chanda (1973-1981), Pillai (1976-1981), Mansukhani and Sarkar (1980-1981), Dubois (1980), Sahu and Khare (1980), Sarkar and Sanyal (1986), Inger and Datta (1986), Chanda (1986), etc.
The Himalayan Newt, Tylotoriton verrucosus is the sole representative of the family Salamandridae in India. It is an endangered species. Very little attention has been paid on the study of taxonomy, distribution, and ecology of this species. Some of the work are by Boulenger (1890), Singh (1977), Inger and Dana (1986) and Das (1987).
Two genera and 11 species of the family Ichthyophidae are found in India of which 8 species are endemic to this country. Except for a few scattered references by Boulenger (1882, 1890, 1919), Taylor (1960), Satyamurthy (1967), Inger and Datta (1986), etc., there is as yet no detailed account on the taxonomy, ecology and distribution of Indian ichthyophids.
Two genera and four species of family Caecilidae are found in India of which all the species are endemic to this region. Very little work has been done on the taxonomy, distribution and ecology of this group. Some stray work are by Thurston (1888), Beddome (1870), Boulenger (1890), Alcock (1904), Taylor (1961), Satyamurthy (1967), and Pillai (1986).
Edible amphibians: Two species of frogs, Rana tigrina and Rana hexadactyla are suitable for human consumption. Their legs were exported to China, Japan and U.S .A. till recently. Now the export has been banned.
S. K. Chanda &A. K. Sarkar, Zoological Survey of India, Indian Museum Complex, Calcutta-• 700016. H. S. Mehta, Zoological Survey of India, High Altitude Zoology Field Station, Hospital Road, Solan-173212.
P. Roy, Zoological Survey of India, Northern Regional Station, 218 Kaulagarh, Dehradun¬248001. T. S. N. Murthy &Ravi Chandran, Zoological Survey of India, Southern Regional Station, 100 Santhome High Road, Madras-600028.
J. C. Daniel, Bombay Natural History Society, Sahid Bhagat Singh Road, Bombay-400023. H. Abdulali, Bombay Natural History Society, Sahid Bhagat Singh Road, Bombay-400023. Privamuada Mahanty-Hejmadi, Department of Zoology, Utkal University, Vani Vihar, Bhubaneswar-751004, Orissa. S. K. Datta, Utkal University, Vani Vihar, Bhubaneswar, Orissa. L. S. Ramaswami, 387, Upper Palace Orchard, Bangalore':6. S. T. Satyamurthy, Madras Govt. Museum, Madras. P. L. Duda, Professor of Zoology, Department of Bio-Sciences, University of Jammu, Canal Road, Jammu-180001. Indmnil Das, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Vadanemmeli Perur, Madras-6031 04.
R. F. Inger, Division of Amphibia and Reptilia, Field Museum of Natural History, Roosevelt Road At Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois-60605, U.S.A.
Alice G. C. Grandison, Dept of Zoology, British Museum (Natural History), Cromwell Road, London, U.K.
William E. Duellman, Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
Richard G. Zweifel, Dept. of Herpetology, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park, West, New York, U.S.A.
D-ubois, A., Laboratoire de Zoology, Reptiles et Amphibians, Museum Natural d'Histoire Naturelle, 25, Rue Cuvier, 75005, Paris, France.
Wake, Marvalaee. H., Dept. of Zoology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, California, U.S.A.
M. S. Khan, Herpetology Laboratory, 15/6, Darnl Sadder North, Rabwah, Pakistan.
Steven, C. Anderson, Dept. of Biological Sciences, College of the Pacific, Stockton, California, U.S.A. Angel Alcala, Dept. of Biology, Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Philippines. Richard Highton, Dept. of Zoology, University of Maryland, College Park; Maryland, U.S.A. R. C. Tinsley, School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary College (University of London),
London, U.K. David B. Wake, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, California, U.S.A.
William F. Pyburn, Dept. of Biology, University of Texas, Arlington, Texas, U.S.A. Norman J.
Scott, Denver Wild Life Research Centre, University of New Mexico, U.S.A.
R. A. Nussbaum, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, U.S.A.
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