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Discovery of Indian dancing frog's mysterious tadpoles

Researchers have finally discovered the Indian dancing frog's elusive tadpoles. It turns out they were particularly good at hiding.

Indien Westghats

The Indian dancing frog is found in the Western Ghats (pictured)

A team of scientists has found the elusive tadpoles of the Indian dancing frog family in the Western Ghats of India.

First described more than 125 years ago, the Indian dancing frogs are known for waving their legs in sexual and territorial displays. But the tadpoles had remained shrouded in mystery.

Now it's clear why: they burrow through the sand and live in complete darkness until they are froglets, according to the study by a U.S. and Indian research team published March 30 in the journal "

Plos One

."

The tadpoles have eel-like bodies with muscular tails, which help to burrow into sand and move through gravel and vegetation. They also have skin-covered eyes and "serrated well-formed jaw sheaths" that prevent large grains of sand from entering their mouths by acting like a "sieve."

The Western Ghats is a mountain range running for around 1600 kilometers parallel to the Indian west coast and is one of the world's eight biodiversity hotspots. The area is home to countless frog species and has been the site of many recent frog discoveries.

The latest discovery should help with conservation of the Indian dancing frogs, which the researchers describe as "an ancient and endemic lineage."

Frogs threatened worldwide

One third of amphibians, including frogs, are endangered or extinct due to threats such as habitat destruction, infectious diseases and climate change. Hundreds of frog species, such as Darwin's frog in Chile, are threatened by a fungus known as chytrid.

Watch video 06:30

Saving Darwin's frog


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