Environment & Forests
A new Caecilian (legless amphibian) described from Keri village Sattari Goa
Dr. G K Bhatt, K.P.Dinesh, P. Prashant, Nirmal Kulkarni.
The research team led by Dr. Gopalakrishna Bhat, Professor of Zoology, M.G.M.College, Udupi, Karnataka and consisting of Dinesh K.P. from the Zoological Survey of India, Nirmal Kulkarni, Goan researcher working in the Mahadayi region and Prashanth P. of the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station.
Dr. Bhat and his team encountered two individuals of this animal in 2004 and the team was in search for many more individuals to confirm that they are new to science. Their continuous field visits and surveys to the sites from 2004 to 2006 in the Monsoons and thereafter ultimately enabled them to find and study few more individuals in this year.
Caecilians are the least known and studied of Amphibians in the world and are presently known from some regions in the wet tropics, some sub tropical regions except Madagascar, South Esat Asia and Australia.
In India, the Western Ghats of which Goa is a part has been repeatedly acknowledged as a haven for varied Caecilian species but very little scientific work has been carried out on them due to their secretive nature and the lack of sensitivity for lesser known species of this group of creatures.
Being legless, burrowing, nocturnal and earthworm/snake like in appearance to the laypersons, these animals are important indicators of healthy ecosystems and are characterized by minute eyes and rings (Or annuli) around the body. They are non-venomous and does not cause bite to humans or cattle as is believed in some localities in Goa.
The individuals of the current species were found under rotting vegetation kept for compost under saplings of a mixed orchard of arecanut, banana, coconut and pepper is owned by Mr. Sanjay Rama Parodkar from Keri village and also under rotting coconut leaves stacked for compost near the home of Mr. Rajendra Kerkar.
The molecular study has confirmed that this is a new species and is thus an addition to the existing seven species of the Genus of Gegeneophis which is an endemic genus to the Western Ghats of India.
It is important to note that the species was hitherto unknown to science and has been documented in the area bordering the forests of Mahadayi Wildlife Sanctuary, which proves that this region is a storehouse of biodiversity, some of which is yet to be discovered and documented.
The present new species is credited after the state and named as Gegeneophis goaensis. This is probably the first amphibian species to have been named after the state of Goa, which is known for its diversity of amphibian species. It may be remembered that Dr. Bhat had earlier discovered Gegneophis nadkarnii from Bondla Wildlife sanctuary in the year 2004.
The research paper about Gegneophs goaensis has been accepted by the internationally reputed journal Zootaxa, of New Zealand for publication.
The team has thanked the Goa Forest Department, members of Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade and Mahadayi Bachao Abhiyaan and the people of Goa for their support and help in the last 3 years for this study and research.