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Though the discovery of new amphibians is highly rare, SD Biju of the University of Delhi estimates that 30% to 40% of India's have yet to be found.
Some might be persuaded to dig for five years through forest beds in India if the cure for cancer depended on it. Or perhaps for lost treasure.
But for a team of research biologists in that country such a long time in the mud and monsoons has yielded something else – the discovery of a family of squirming, legless amphibians heretofore unknown to science and mankind.
The riches this brings are in the knowledge of the Subcontinent’s biodiversity and the need to preserve it, the biologists who made the discovery say.
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In an interview with The Associated Press, University of Delhi professor Sathyabhama Das Biju says the family called Chikilidae are endemic to the region but have links to Africa.
The results of their research are to be published Wednesday in the journal of the Royal Society of London.
"This is a major hotspot of biological diversity, but one of the least explored," Biju was quoted as saying. "We hope this new family will show the importance of funding research in the area. We need to know what we have, so we can know what to save."
The AP said the scientific name of the Chikilidae — which are caecilian, the most primitive of the three groups of amphibians which also includes frogs and salamanders — was taken from the local Garo language.
"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 was quoted as saying. "India's biodiversity is fast depleting. We are destroying these habitats without mercy.”
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According to the AP, the discovery was made in an area that is now threatened by large-scale and heavy development. The news agency said amphibians were very vulnerable and that their population was in sharp decline. Their sensitivity to temperature and water quality, which makes their population an indication of environmental conditions, leaves them exposed to ecological damage, according to the AP.
The AP said that since 2001, Biju had discovered 76 new species of plant, caecilian and frog and estimated 30 percent to 40 percent of the India’s amphibians have yet to be found.
In an interview with the Times of India, Biju said his new discovery were dedicated burrowers.
"They exhibit an intriguing and highly specialized reproductive behaviour. The mother builds underground nests for her eggs, guards her egg-clutch by coiling around them until the embryos hatch after 2-3 months. The eggs undergo direct development - they feed on the yolk reserves and come out as miniature adults," he was quoted as saying.
Here is a video produced by Biju and his researchers: