Thursday, March 14, 2013

Eight new frogs described from Sri Lanka, seven are considered threatened


Sri Lanka has a remarkably diverse herpetofauna for its size. The Peak Wilderness area, part of the Central Hills, was designated a World Heritage Site. Geographical protected area is about 240 sq.km, of which 211.75 sq.km comprises natural or semi natural vegetation; the rest is no longer forest and includes tea estates and village settlements. Much of the terrain is  rugged, with altitudes ranging from 600 m to 2,238 m. The most recently described  vertebrate species in the area studied area were the gecko Cnemaspis samanalensis, and two skink:  Lankascincus munindradasai, and Lankascincus sripadensis suggesting the area is a center of endemicity.

The high altitudes, heavy rainfall, and steep topography make fiewld work difficult. In a just published article  Wickramasinghe et al. (2013) describe eight new species of rhacophorid frogs in the genus Pseudophilautus (Pseudophilautus bambaradeniyai, P. dayawansai, P. jagathgunawardanai, P. karunarathnai, P. newtonjayawardanei, P. puranappu, P. samarakoon, and P. sirilwijesundarai). They were discovered as a result of a survey to study the herpetofaunal diversity. The conservation status of all species described here, have been considered Critically Endangered, except for P. newtonjayawardanei.

All the new species are recorded from single locations, and their habitats are under severe threat. Human activity in the area is considerable, despite the difficult terrain. The highest point of this mountain range is a place of worship for all religions in the country and a place of aesthetic beauty. Millions visit the site every year during the pilgrim season which lasts for a period of six months. Large amount of garbage gets collected, and the primary forest is over exploited. Illegal gem mining occurs on both sides of the river bank. Tea cultivation in the surrounding area is slowly expanding; and Illegal tree felling to cultivate tea, has become a serious problem.

Citation
Wickramasinghe, L.J.M., D.R. Vidanapathirana, M.D.G. Rajeev, S.C. Ariyarathne, A.W.A. Chanaka, L.L.D. Priyantha, I.N. Bandara & N. Wickramasinghe (2013). Eight new species of Pseudophilautus (Amphibia, Anura, Rhacophoridae) from Sripada World Heritage Site (Peak Wilderness), a local amphibian hotspot in Sri Lanka. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(4): 3789–3920; doi:10.11609/JoTT.o3099.3789-920

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