A new species of frog discovered in the Western Ghats mountain range in India is unlike any other frog you’ve seen before.
Bhupathy's purple frog (Nasikabatrachus bhupathi) has a unique bubbly body shape coupled with both purple-tinted smooth skin and a pig-like nose. Researchers describe N. bhupathi the journal Alytes.
Image Credit: Jegath Janani
So why the strange bodily features that make this frog look like an amphibious mole? Unlike most frogs that dwell upon the Earth’s surface, Bhupathy’s purple frog lives almost exclusively underground.
The frogs hide out of sight within shallow underground burrows, but researchers located them by following the loud mating calls produced by males. Once in hand, they collected DNA samples of the frogs to compare with the nation’s ever-expanding genetic database for amphibians.
It’s not the first underground-burrowing frog ever discovered, but it’s one of the only known species thought to live underground for its entire life (except in rare circumstances).
Bhupathy's purple frog doesn’t even come up to the surface to eat because it feasts on underground ants and termites with its insect-grabbing tongue. In fact, the only time it comes up from its underground dwelling is when torrential rains sweep the nation and flood out its living quarters.
In addition to escaping the flooded tunnels to breathe, coming to the surface after a downpour also presents the species with the perfect opportunity to mate with other specimens.
Although the fully-grown frog you see above is unusual in and of itself, even the tadpoles produced from these mating opportunities are vastly different from common frog tadpoles.
Bhupathy’s purple frog tadpoles use suckerfish-like mouths to cling to the rocky surfaces behind waterfalls in the Western Ghats mountains. There, they'll sit things out for almost 120 days while they develop; afterward, they begin their underground lifestyle.
Despite how unusual the frog’s characteristics are, the study's authors do note how it’s closely-related to another frog species known as Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis, which was discovered in the same region back in 2003.
Bhupathy's purple frog is a testament to just how little we actually know about the world's diverse amphibians. Just when we thought we had everything all figured out, mother nature surprises us with something we didn’t even know existed.
Continued studies in the region may help researchers discover new frogs with similar characteristics, and perhaps develop a clearer understanding of Bhupathy’s purple frog’s behavior and lifestyle, but only time will tell.
Source: National Geographic