Scientists describe and name a new genus of tree hole breeding frogs from India, according to a study published January 20, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by S. D. Biju from the University of Delhi and colleagues.
The Old World tree frog family currently contains over 380 species and includes some frogs with ambiguous classifications based on shared characteristics. During fieldwork in four northeastern Indian states, the authors of this study discovered several populations of tree hole breeding frogs with unusual characteristics, including tadpoles that feed on the mother's eggs. To investigate the phylogenetic relationship of these new frogs, the authors compared molecular data with known tree frog genera.
Through their analyses, they identified a previously overlooked, yet distinct evolutionary lineage of frogs that the authors recognize as a new genus, Frankixalus. "This genus probably remained unnoticed because of its secretive life in high canopy tree holes", says Prof. S.D. Biju. Frankixalus differs from other tree frog genera in breeding, egg laying, and development. This includes having gel-encapsulated eggs, breeding in water accumulated in tree holes, egg laying on walls of tree holes, and tadpoles that devour their mother's eggs. "Since the new genus shows remarkable parental care behavior with specific microhabitat requirements for their survival, populations discovered from highly disturbed forests are already facing extinction threats", adds Biju. The distinctiveness of this evolutionary lineage is also corroborated by the external appearance, skeletal shape and life history features.
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Citation: Biju SD, Senevirathne G, Garg S, Mahony S, Kamei RG, Thomas A, et al. (2016) Frankixalus, a New Rhacophorid Genus of Tree Hole Breeding Frogs with Oophagous Tadpoles. PLoS ONE 11(1): e0145727. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0145727
Funding: This study was supported by the following grants to SDB: DU/DST Purse Grant '2009/868', Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India; 'BT/PR7833/NDB/51/153/2006', Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India; University of Delhi Research and Development Grants '2007/130', '2007/858', '2008/302', '2014/110'. IVB is supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from FWO-Vlaanderen. MM is supported by the National Research Council of Sri Lanka (# NRC 11-124); SG is supported by a research fellowship from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, India (CSIR No. 9/45(1381)/2015-EMR-I); RGK is supported by Marie Sk?odowska-Curie Fellowship (PIIF-GA-2013-625870). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.