Friday, November 20, 2009
The Western Ghats is specially rich in its amphibian diversity. It has around 151 species of amphibians of which around 130 are endemic and found no where else in the world. Several genus such as Uraeotyphlus, Gegeniophis, Indotyphlus, Indirana, Ghatixalus, Micrixalus and Nictibatrachus are entirely endemic to the western ghats. The Southern western ghats is also the only home for the rare and primitive Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis) which has changed little since the juracic period. The western ghats is also home to several species of amphibians yet to be described.
The impact of humans and our ecological amnesia has taken a huge toll on the amphibian diversity. Now this unique habitat lies in our hands. Habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution and global warming have had a direct impact on amphibians. Now it is time for us to take drastic steps to conserve them and their natural habitat.
Monday, November 9, 2009
During several visits to forests of the Western Ghats and surrounding areas, I have observed several road killed specimens. Several species of reptiles such as the Kerala Shieldtail (Uropeltis celynicus), Bronzeback (Dendrilaphis sp), Vine Snakes (Ahetulla nasuta), Wolf Snakes (Lycodon sp), Kukri Snakes (Oligodon sp), and Indian Garden Lizards (calotes versicolor) were found dead on the roads. Amphibians such as the Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus), Indian Bull Frog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) and Bicoloured Frog (Clinotarsus curtipes) were regularly found dead on roads. Most of the species found dead on the roads were nocturnal. Maximum road kills were observed after heavy rains. By understanding the regularities of road mortality of herpetofauna with respect to the changes in the environment, it is possible to take measures to control road mortality. Though a few studies have been carried out in few places in Tamil nadu, a detailed study throughout the Western Ghats is needed.
Most biologists may agree that many species of amphibians and reptiles need protection but, where the general public is concerned, reptile and amphibian conservation has a low priority. This attitude of the people can be changed only by educating them about the importance and the role that reptiles and amphibians play in our ecosystem. I consider education to be a synonym of conservation because unless we educate people about the importance of amphibians and reptiles, conserving them is next to impossible. Other ways to reduce herpetofaunal road mortality are by reducing vehicle traffic in forested areas during peak seasons and by finding alternative routs avoiding forested areas while moving from one place to another. So next time we see a road killed amphibian or reptile lets try to understand more about it rather than just complain, so that we can try and reduce road mortality of herpetofauna.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The unique habitats of the Western Ghats is home to 6 species of pit vipers of which 4 are endemic to the Western Ghats and is found nowhere else in the world. Like all pit vipers they are venomous but their venom is not as toxic as other Indian venomous snakes and has resulted in very few fatalities. Their venom is adapted mainly to kill prey such as frogs, lizards, birds & rodents. The pit vipers of Western ghats belong to 4 genus which are
Trimeresurus: These are a group of stout snakes with a broad triangular head with small scales. The scales may be slightly keeled. They are mostly arboreal but can also be found on rocks. They are mainly found close to streams. They include 3 species in the Western Ghats.
- Malabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus)
- Bamboo Pit Viper (Trimeresurus gramineus)
- Horseshoe Pit Viper (Trimeresurus strigatus)
Peltopelor: This is a monotypic genus containing only a single species. They are charecterised by their triangular head covered by large scales. They have a prehensile tail adapted for its arboreal habit. They can also be found on rocks close to streams. The distribution of this snake is restricted to a few highly elevated localities of Tamilnadu and Kerala. As mentioned above, it includes only a single species
- Large-scaled Pit Viper (Peltopelor macrolepis)
Hypnale: The genus hypnale consists of small sized snakes with weakly keeled scales on the body. The head is broad, flat, and triangular and has large scales. The tip of the snout in these snakes is slightly upturned. They are mainly nocturnal and terrestrial inhabiting evergreen, moist and dry deciduous forests. This genus is distributed throughout the central and southern western ghats and Sri lanka. Only one species is know from the western ghats.
- Hump-nosed Pit Viper (Hypnale hypnale)
Tropidolaemus: This genus is charecterised by distinctly keeled small scales on the snout and head and strong keels on the gular region. This group consists of a single species in India which is known only from two specimens from the southern Western Ghats.
- Hutton’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemu huttoni).
Though most of these snakes except the Huttons Pit Viper are common throughout the western ghats, They are found nowhere else in the world. In recent days habitat loss and habitat fragmentation in the western ghats has caused a major threat to their existence. Hence conservation of the western ghats should be a major priority.
Monday, November 2, 2009
subterrestris) are now synonymised with Ichthyophis bombayensis.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
- Western ghats flying lizard (Draco dussumieri)
Sitana: They are common lizards found in the plains and forested tracts of throughout India. The body is compressed and covered over by regular keeled scales. Unlike other agamid lizards, they show the absence of a dorsal crest and in having only four toes on the hind foot. The males posses a large gular pouch. This genus is represented by a single species from India. Recent studies have revealed 3 more species of this genus from Nepal.
- Fan-throated lizard (Sitana ponticeriana)
Otocryptis: They are forest dwelling lizards confined to the forests of the western ghats and Srilanka. Thhe body is compressed with the dorsal scales keeled. They have long slender legs which allow it to run on its hind limbs when threatened. They show the absence of a tympanum and a dorsal crest. Only one species is found in India which is endemic to a few places in the Western Ghats.
- Indian Kangaroo Lizard (Otocryptis beddomii)
- Horsfield’s Spiny Lizard (Salea horsfieldi)
- Anaimalai Spiny Lizard (Salea anamallayana)
Calotes: These are typical lizards of this family found in the plains and forested regions of India. Most of them are good climbers. They have a laterally compressed body with a crest of spines on the neck and also the body in some. They have an extremely long tail. The tympanum is very conspicuous. Most of the males have a gular sac and are known to change colour during the breeding season. Seven species are known from South India of which Calotes versicolor and Calotes calotes are found throughout South India. The other five species are endemic to the Western Ghats. The recently described Calotes aurantolabium is known only from the forests of KMTR, Tamil nadu. This species was first wrongly identified as
calotes andamanensis by Ishwar and Das and it was recently redescribed as Calotes aurantolabium by Shreyas Krishnan. The species belonging to this genus in South India are
- Indian Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor)
- Green Forest Lizard (Calotes calotes)
- Elliot’s Forest Lizard (Calotes ellioti)
- Roux’s Forest Lizard (Calotes rouxii)
- Large Scaled Forest Lizard (Calotes grandisquamis)
- Nilgiri Forest Lizard (Calotes nemoricola) and
- Calotes aurantolabium
Psammophilus: These are lizards found in hilly areas of peninsular India. They are well distinguished by their dorso-ventrally depressed body and long, slender tail. The body is covered with uniform keeled scales. They do not posses a dorsal crest. As the name suggests they are normally found in rocky habitats. There are tow species in India.
- South Indian Rock Agama (Psammophilus dorsalis)
- Dwarf Rock Agama (Psammophilus blanfordanus)