Say "Hello, my baby. Hello, my darling…" to 14 newly described frog species that kick and dance like Michigan J. Frog from the classic Warner Brothers animated cartoon, One Froggy Evening. These "dancing" frogs don't sing, however—the males of these various species all kick and stretch their legs to their sides as a visual cue to attract potential mates. It's a necessary adaptation: The rushing streams of India's Western Ghats mountains are too loud for female frogs to hear courtship croaks.
The 14 new species were described last week in the Ceylon Journal of Science, bringing the total number of known dancing frog species in India to 24. All of the tiny frogs, the largest of which measure just 35 millimeters, come from the genus Micrixalus, which can only be found in the Western Ghats.
Unfortunately, none of these tiny frogs may be around much longer. According to the research by University of Delhi biologist S. D. Biju and colleagues, Micrixalus frogs already suffer from a 100 to 1 male-to-female sex ratio. (That's another reason for the "dancing"—the males also kick away potential mating competitors.) The frogs only breed after monsoon season when water in their habitats is moving swiftly. On top of that, the Western Ghats are expected to experience much lower rainfall levels in the coming years due to climate change. In fact, the rivers already appear to be drying up and the number of frogs observed in the wild has dropped by 80 percent since 2006, the researchers report. Meanwhile the region’s human population is increasing and at least 25 percent of the area has already been deforested as a result. Most of the frogs' habitat remains unprotected.
You can see some of the dancing frogs in action in the video below:
Photo: One of the 14 new dancing frog species, Micrixalus kottigeharensis, photographed by S. D. Biju