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AKIPRESS.COM - Scientists have discovered 14 new species of so-called dancing frogs in the jungle mountains of southern India – just in time, they fear, to watch them fade away, Miami Herald reported.
Indian biologists say they found the tiny acrobatic amphibians, which earned their name with the unusual kicks they use to attract mates, declining dramatically in number during the 12 years in which they chronicled the species through morphological descriptions and molecular DNA markers. They breed after the yearly monsoon in fast-rushing streams, but their habitat appears to be becoming increasingly dry.
The study brings the number of known Indian dancing frog species to 24. They're found exclusively in the Western Ghats, a lush mountain range that stretches 1,600 kilometers from the western state of Maharashtra down to the country's southern tip.
Only the males dance – It's actually a unique breeding behavior called foot-flagging. They stretch, extend and whip their legs out to the side to draw the attention of females who might have trouble hearing mating croaks over the sound of water flowing through perennial hill streams.
The bigger the frog, the more they dance. They also use those leg extensions to smack away other males – an important feature considering the sex ratio for the amphibians is usually around 100 males to one female.
There are other dancing frogs in Central America and Southeast Asia, but the Indian family, known by the scientific name Micrixalidae, evolved separately about 85 million years ago.
The Western Ghats, older than the Himalayas, is among the world's most biologically exciting regions, holding at least a quarter of all Indian species. Yet in recent decades, the region has faced a constant assault by iron and bauxite mining, water pollution, unregulated farming and loss of habitat to human settlements.