Nasikabatrachus Sahyadrensis is an unusual species of purple frog found in the mountainous Western Ghats region of southern India. Only loosely related to other kinds of frog, it is the only species of its family, Nasikabatrachidae. It was discovered in October of 2003 by Franky Bossuyt of the Free Univerity of Brussels, and S.D. Biju of the Tropical Botanic Garden and Reseach Institute in Kerala.
Nasikabatrachus is a significant and unique find in several distinct ways. For one, the discovery of N. Sahyadrensis, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, is the first find of a new family of frog since 1926, bringing the count to 29, and will probably be the last one for a long time. It is unique because most new species found (around 70 per year) are closely related to other known species. This frog, however, is a lone wolf; its closest relatives are the Sooglossidae frogs of the Seychelles, 3,000 kilometers to the southwest, and it bears little resemblance even to them. Genetic comparisons show that the Nasikabatrachidae and Sooglossidae families diverged around 100 million years ago, when India was part of the continent Gondwana. Like the Coelacanth and the Crocodile, this frog is a living fossil, giving scientists hope that it will help to both paint a better picture of frog evolution and lend further insight into the breakup of Gondwana.
N. Sahyadrensis's mouthful of a name is a multilingual hodgepodge of Sanskrit and Greek. "Nasika" is Sanskrit for "nose", while "Batrachus" is the Greek word for "frog." "Sahyadrensis" comes from the Sanskrit "Sahyadri", the name of the remote mountain range in which the frog was found.
Aesthetically, this frog is no Kermit. Its skin is purple and has a rubbery appearance, almost like a squishy toy. The most remarkable feature is its head, which inspired the scientists to call it a "nose-frog" ; it looks as though its head was chopped off, and then, like some twisted salamander, it tried to regenerate but failed part way, leaving it neckless and with its eyes on its shoulders, tapering off on the end. My favorite description by far likens it to "a bloated doughnut with stubby legs and a pointy snout"1. It is rightly nicknamed the "Pignose Frog."
Due to pressures put on its habitat by agriculture, the tropical forest in which it makes its home now covers only ten percent of its former area, severely limiting Sahyadrensis' range and prompting the IUCN Red List to classify it as an endangered species in 2006.2
Photos of Nasikabatrachus can be found here.
To see Sooglossidae, go here