From Mizoram, limbless amphibian added to India’s fauna

GUWAHATI:, JULY 15, 2021: A ‘multicolour’ limbless amphibian recorded in Mizoram has been added to India’s fauna.

A few specimens of Ichthyophis multicolor were found in a roadside stream in northern Mizoram’s Kolasib district, more than 800 km from where the species was first recorded in the Ayeyarwady region of Myanmar in 2014.

Ichthyophis is recognised as the most widely distributed genus of the caecilian amphibians. The genus is represented by 50 species, 13 of which occur in India.

The country’s northeast had till 2009 recorded eight of the 13 species of this genus.

Ichthyophis multicolor is the ninth species of the region and an addition to India’s wealth of fauna,” herpetologist Hmar Tlawmte Lalremsanga said.

He is the lead author of a study on the new species of limbless amphibian published in Check List, a Brazil-based journal of biodiversity data.

His co-authors are Mathipi Vabeiryureilai, Lal Muansanga, Ht Decemson and Lal Biakzuala, all from Mizoram University’s Developmental Biology and Herpetology Laboratory; and Jayaditya Purkayastha of Help Earth, a Guwahati-based NGO.

The species derives its scientific name from a yellowish lateral stripe separating its brownish upper part from a paler lower part. The length of the specimens varied from 310-501 mm.

“The recording of Ichthyophis multicolor points to northeast India being the dispersal route of various species from South Asia to Southeast Asia,” Mr. Lalremsanga told The Hindu.

Dispersal allows animals to avoid competition and inbreeding besides colonising new habitats.

“We are yet to know caecilians or limbless amphibians in their entirety as they are fossorial (burrowing) and secretive. Such amphibians are often mistaken as snakes or eels or large earthworms and killed out of fear,” Mr. Purkayastha said.

“Apart from awareness about their ecological utility, this group of amphibians needs more efforts for an understanding of their conservation status,” he added.

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