Zoological Studies

Vol. 61, 2022

(update: 2022.2.14)

Hiding in Plain Sight: Rain Water Puddles in Nicobar Islands of India Reveal Abundance of a New Frog Species of the Genus Microhyla Tschudi, 1838 (Anura: Microhylidae)

Sonali Garg1, Chandrakasan Sivaperuman2, G. Gokulakrishnan2, S. R. Chandramouli3, and S. D. Biju1,*

1Systematics Lab, Department of Environmental Studies, University of Delhi, Delhi 110007, India. * Correspondence: E-mail: sdbiju.es@gmail.com, sdbiju@es.du.ac.in (Biju)
E-mail: sgarg.du@gmail.com (Garg)
2Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre, Zoological Survey of India, Port Blair 744102, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. E-mail: c_sivaperuman1@rediffmail.com (Sivaperuman); gokul7701@gmail.com (Gokulakrishnan)
3Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, School of Life Sciences, Pondicherry University, Puducherry 605014, India. E-mail: findthesnakeman@gmail.com (Chandramouli)

Received 5 September 2021 / Accepted 19 December 2021
Communicated by Jian-Nan Liu

Recent studies on frogs of the Microhyla heymonsi species complex have demonstrated that high genetic variation exists among its various known populations from regions across Asia. We assessed the taxonomic identity of the Nicobar population of Microhyla cf. heymonsi and compared it to the typical Microhyla heymonsi from Taiwan and the two recently described species in this complex from Vietnam. Our study demonstrates that the Nicobar population is both genetically and morphologically divergent and warrants recognition as a new species, which we formally describe here as Microhyla nakkavaram sp. nov. The new species is closely related to M. daklakensis, M. heymonsi, and M. ninhthuanensis, but diagnosable from all three species by a suite of morphological characters, such as the presence of two small tubercles at mid-dorsum along with ( )-shaped markings, length of finger I longer than half the length of finger II, presence of three distinct metacarpal tubercles on hand, rudimentary foot webbing, as well as its slender body shape, granular dorsal skin texture, and other colour characters and body markings. Statistical analyses based on multiple morphometric characters also clearly separate our new taxon from M. heymonsi, with which it was previously confused. Our phylogenetic analyses based on the mitochondrial 16S rRNA locus find Microhyla nakkavaram sp. nov. to be nested in the Microhyla achatina species group, where it is delimited as a distinct species. This lineage shows genetic distances of ≥ 3.5% from all the other known congeners. Currently, the known distribution of the new taxon is restricted to the southernmost group of Nicobar Islands—Great Nicobar, Kondul, and Little Nicobar—where it is found in abundance across a wide range of habitats during the monsoon season. Our study underlines the need to reassess the identity of all the known populations of M.heymonsi’ from other regions in Southeast and East Asia. To facilitate future taxonomic work in the light of our and other recent findings, we also provide a detailed redescription and revised diagnosis for M. heymonsi based on morphological examination of its century-old type material originating from Taiwan.

Key words: Amphibia, Microhyla heymonsi, Integrative taxonomy, Mitochondrial DNA, Species complex.

Citation: Garg S, Sivaperuman C, Gokulakrishnan G, Chandramouli SR, Biju SD. 2022. Hiding in Plain Sight: Rain Water Puddles in Nicobar Islands of India Reveal Abundance of a New Frog Species of the Genus Microhyla Tschudi, 1838 (Anura: Microhylidae). Zool Stud 61:2. doi:10.6620/ZS.2022.61-02.

Supplementary materials: Table S1 | Table S2 | Table S3 | Table S4 | Table S5 |