The frog that jumped… stages of evolution!

By Shravan Regret Iyer

Bengaluru: Growing water scarcity has placed many plant and animal species of the Western Ghats under threat. But a certain species of frogs appears to have adapted to the situation, giving birth to fully developed “froglets” and entirely bypassing the three-month life cycle of tadpoles transforming into frogs in water.

Frog story Photo 1
Photo by Aravind NA

Most frog species lay their transparent, jelly mass eggs in water bodies. The eggs hatch and develop into tadpoles, which eat algae to grow into frogs. “These three months are  crucial for a frog to develop and water is a must. But this particular genus,  Raorchestes, lays eggs below moist leaves and the eggs develop into froglets directly without going through the tadpole stage. This process takes only about 15 to 20 days. They breed only during the monsoon and under the moist leaves,” says Mr Gururaja K V, a batrachologist and Chief Scientist at the Gubbi Labs in Karnataka.

He believes this species of frog may have either sensed the water scarcity or is trying to be independent of water bodies. “Other possible reasons for this kind of evolution could be to avoid predators. We are not sure whether the amphibians predicted water scarcity. All we are trying to do is link it to our understanding of a frog’s development,” he explains.

Mr. Gururaja and his team of scientists also discovered another species of frog under the Raorchestes genus earlier this month in Honnametti in the Chamarajanagar forest division of Karnataka. While initially confused with Seshachar’s Bush Frog, the team of scientists from Gubbi Labs and ATREE was able to find 80 different characteristics, including the unique call patterns of the male frog, to distinguish it from others.

Currently, there are 60 species of frogs in the Raorchestes genus. About 51 species are found in the Western Ghats, one in Andhra Pradesh, four in the North Eastern states, one in Vietnam, two in South China and one in Myanmar.


This story was originally published in Deccan Chronicle Apr 10, 2016, edition.