February 23, 2012
New Amphibian Discovered In Northeast India
Scientists have discovered a new family of legless amphibians while digging through the mud in northeast India.
The Chikilidae is the 10th edition to the caecilian group of amphibians, which are a group of amphibians that resemble earthworms.
This family lives hidden in the ground, and its skin has numerous lines, giving it a segmented appearance.
The new species was found while the researchers were digging around at 250 locations looking for the amphibians.
"DNA analysis has confirmed that this is an entirely new family," S.D. Biju, a professor at the University of Delhi who led the project with team members from Britain and Belgium, told AFP.
"Habitat destruction is a big problem for amphibians worldwide, and discoveries like this prove that we must protect the environment to save parts of the natural world we know little about," he said.
The Chikilidae, which was a name used by the local Garo tribal language, are about eight inches long and lay nearly 10-inches in the Earth.
The eyesight of the caecilian group is limited, and their skulls are hard and adapted for burrowing into soil.
The Chikilidae stays wrapped around its eggs for 2 to 3 months at a time, not eating at all during this period.
The researchers said that some of the animals had reportedly been killed by villagers who thought they were venomous snakes.
"We hope when the locals see the name, and their language, being used across the world, they will understand this animal's importance and join in trying to save it," Biju told The Associated Press. "India's biodiversity is fast depleting. We are destroying these habitats without mercy."
The Chikilidae's home faces drastic change under programs to cut trees, plant rice paddy, build roads and generate industry.
Biju said he has made it his life work to find and catalogue new species, because too many animals disappear before they are ever known.
The Chikilidae could be useful for farmers because the animals eat worms and insects that might cause harm to crops.
The researchers said they teamed up with locals to spend about 2,600 man hours digging around for the new creatures.
"It was back-breaking work," said research fellow Rachunliu Kamei said in a press release. "But there is motivation in knowing this is an uncharted frontier."
The new discovery was published by the Royal Society of London journal Proceedings B.
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