DNA barcoding reveals unprecedented diversity in Dancing Frogs of India (Micrixalidae, Micrixalus): a taxonomic revision with description of 14 new species

SD Biju, Sonali Garg, KV Gururaja, Yogesh Shouche, Sandeep A Walujkar


In this study, we investigate species level diversity in the monotypic frog family Micrixalidae, which is endemic to the Western Ghats of Peninsular India. Attempting the first nearcomplete taxon sampling of Indian dancing frogs from the entire Western Ghats, we use 138 tissue samples collected from 70 localities over the last 12 years for DNA barcoding. Our results of multiple mitochondrial gene (16S and COI) barcoding reveal unexpectedly high species level diversity in the genus Micrixalus. Based on molecular and morphological evidence, we herein describe 14 new species, leading to a more than two-fold increase in the number of known species in this ancient lineage. Additionally, certain taxonomic uncertainties about the status of previously known taxa in this genus are resolved. Micrixalus narainensis and M. swamianus are considered as junior subjective synonyms of M. kottigeharensis, whereas M. herrei is resurrected from synonymy of M. fuscus and confirmed as a valid species. Taxonomic accounts of three species—M. elegans, M. silvaticus and M. thampi—are provided for the first time after their original descriptions. For nomenclatural stability, M. fuscus, M. saxicola and M. silvaticus are lectotypified, and M. elegans and M. kottigeharensis are neotypified. Detailed descriptions, morphological and genetic comparisons, illustrations, data on distribution, and natural history are provided for all species. We also provide the first osteological description of M. fuscus, the type species of the genus Micrixalus, and we report foot-flagging behavior in a total eight species, including two for which it has been studied previously. Overall, our results highlight the underestimation of true diversity in several amphibian groups of the Western Ghats, suggesting that spatial patterns of amphibian richness and endemism in this region need to be further re-examined.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4038/cjsbs.v43i1.6850

Ceylon Journal of Science (Bio. Sci.) 43(1): 2014

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Micrixalus; Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot; endemic family; foot-flagging; osteology; ancient lineage
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