Researchers from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have recently discovered a new species of frog from deep inside the Siju cave system in South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. This is the second time that a frog has been discovered from inside a cave in India, the first being the Micrixalus spelunca in 2014 from a cave in Tamil Nadu.

The team from ZSI and Pune-based ZSI named the new species as Amolops siju, after the cave from where it was discovered. The frog was found about 60-100 meters deep in January 2020, a few months before the COVID-19 lockdown.

The discovery was published in the latest issue of the international research journal, Journal of Animal Diversity published from Iran-based Lorestan University. According to the ZSI official, the frog being morphologically cryptic in nature, tissue samples of the specimens were subjected to molecular studies to ascertain their specific identity from the other known species of other cascade Amolops frogs.

While the specimens were collected from the twilight and the dark zones of the cave, the team did not find any troglobitic (cave adapted) modification, suggesting that this species of frog is not a permanent resident of the cave.

Zoological Survey of India officials said that there have been reports of the presence of frog populations up to 400 meters from cave entrance in Siju Cave since 1922. The detritus food web and food chains of Siju cave is known to harbour more than 100 animal species, mostly invertebrates like cave crickets, spiders, beetles, earthworms.

The researchers’ team also discovered three other new species of cascade frog (Amolops) in Arunachal Pradesh. Dr Dinesh, from ZSI said that the amphibian fauna of North eastern India is not fully explored and there is more potential for many more new species to be discovered from this ‘biogeographical fauna rich’ hotspot.

The ZSI’s discovery was a part of a research project on the faunal documentation of Siju Cave, and the researchers’ team included Saikia and Dr Bikramjit Sinha from the ZSI office here, besides Dr KP Dinesh and Shabnam Ansari of ZSI, Pune.

Overall, the discovery of the new species of frog is a significant addition to the biological wealth of the country where most of these species are endemic to small geographic landscapes.

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