Ichthyophis davidi – A new species of limbless amphibian

A new species of limbless amphibian Ichthyophis davidi from the bordering districts of Goa and Karnataka states of Western Ghats

In a joint effort by the researchers Dr. Gopalakrishna Bhatta of Department of Biology, BASE Educational Services Pvt. Ltd, Bengaluru; Dr. K.P. Dinesh and Dr. C. Radhakrishnan of Western Ghats Regional Centre, Calicut; Mr. P. Prashanth of Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, Agumbe and Mr. Nirmal U Kulkarni of Mhadei Research Centre, Chorla Ghats have discovered a new species of limbless yellow striped caecilian from the Belgaum district of Karnataka which is part of the Western Ghats of India.

The new species Ichthyophis davidi is one of the largest known yellow striped caecilian from Western Ghats and is named in honor of Dr. David Gower, Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London in recognition of his contributions to Indian caecilian studies. The common name suggested for the species is Chorla Giant striped Ichthyophis.

Systematically this yellow striped limbless amphibian is grouped in the genus Ichthyophis (meaning fish like) of the Family Ichthyophiidae under the Gymnophiona. The members of the genus Ichthyophis include both striped and non-striped caecilians in Western Ghats, these creatures are nocturnal and are found in forests and plantations.

Western Ghats, one of the global biodiversity hot spots supports 25 species of legless amphibians. Among the 25 species only five are yellow striped forms including the new species and are known from limited in distribution.

Members of the team have discovered earlier the tailless caecilians Gegeneophis madhavai in 2004 from Kundapura, Karnataka; Gegeneophis nadakarnii in 2004 near Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa; Gegeneophis goaensis in 2007 from Keri village in North Goa; Gegeneophis mhadeiensis in 2007 from the Chorla village in Belgaum, Karnataka.

Habitat destruction due to human interference and usage of chemical fertilizers in the plantations (areca, banana and cardamom) is limiting the distribution of these limbless amphibians in Western Ghats. Conservation of the forested patches adjacent to plantations and usage of organic manure in the plantations next to forested patches are the best means to safe protect these caecilians in Western Ghats.

Discovery of Ichthyophis davidi has been published in the journal, Current Science, Vol Number 101 Issue Number 25 October Pages 1015-1019 Year 2011.