Fourteen new species of dancing frogs — so named because of the unique kicks they use to attract mates — have been found in the mountains of southern India.
The discovery brings the total number of known dancing frog species to 24.
Only the male frogs “dance,” which involves stretching and extending the legs in a breeding behavior known as foot-flagging.
By whipping their legs out, the frogs draw the attention of females that might not be able to hear their mating croaks over the sound of rushing water.
The frogs also use their leg extensions to smack away other males. For every one female dancing frog, there are about 100 males, making the “dance” that much more important.
The species’ mating patterns have long baffled scientists who scoured Indian forests for years in search of eggs.
In 2011, they witnessed two frogs mating and saw the female immediately bury her fertilized eggs, which confirmed that the animals were breeding only after monsoon season when stream levels had gone down.
Because stream levels are so important to the frogs’ reproduction, the species is vulnerable to changes in rainfall and water availability.
Scientists have found that the animals are declining rapidly, which could be due to loss of moisture in forest soil and streams running dry.
However, researchers acknowledge that their observations on forest conditions are only anecdotal and further investigation is needed.
Dancing frogs are found exclusively in the Western Ghats or the Sahyādr, a mountain range that stretches nearly 1,000 miles across southern India.
The biologically diverse mountains are home to a quarter of all Indian species.
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