Secretive galaxy-like dwarf frog discovered in the Indian mountains

This week, news broke of the discovery of a brand new species of frog – Astrobatrachus kurichiyana – which has been named by its finders as the ‘Starry dwarf frog’.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 20.10.51

Credit: K.P. Dinesh

Measuring approximately the width of a human adult’s thumbnail, this teeny tiny amphibian has managed to live undetected among the fallen leaves on India’s Western Ghat mountains for millions of years. As well as it’s size, these frogs have survived in secret thanks to their cleverly patterned backs – a galaxy-like print (pale blue speckles on a dark brown background) – helping them to camouflage in with their surroundings and by sleeping during the day. However, these frogs aren’t all dark, as they have strikingly bright orange bellies.

The family of starry dwarf frogs were found by a team of researchers who have described the animals as “a never-before-described family” of frogs. The study’s co-author David Blackburn, from 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“.

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Credit: SP Vijayakumar/PA

Similar to the Galapagos Islands, India’s Western Ghat mountains are incredibly remote with isolated areas perfect for the survival of unique and unusual species. “Astrobatrachus is from the Greek for star frog, and so we named it after the spots that sort of look like stars, and kurichiyana is the name of the local peoples in this area where it was found”, explains another co-author Dr Alex Pyron from George Washington University.

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