A team of scientists led by Dr. SD Biju of University of Delhi (www.frogindia.org) has discovered an entirely NEW FAMILY of legless amphibians from India and named it Chikilidae. Their closest relatives are found around 7,000 miles away in Africa highlighting ancient biogeographical links between India and Africa. Chikilids live exclusively under the soil and hence the common name tailless burrowing caecilians. This rare find is a result of over 2000 person hours of digging in more than 250 localities in Northeast India.
New species, genus and family
The new family of tailless burrowing caecilians was described based on differences in external and internal appearance compared to the nine families of legless amphibians already known. Scientists performed DNA analysis of the specimens and confirmed that it is an entirely new family. They have named this new family as Chikilidae and the new genus as Chikila. The scientific name Chikilidae is derived from Garo (a Northeast Indian tribal) language for caecilians.
Caecilians lead a secretive, under-soil, lifestyle making it extremely challenging to find them. This remarkable discovery came following an unprecedented fieldwork effort of soil-digging surveys in about 250 localities spread over five years (2006-2010) in various parts of every Northeast Indian state, including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim and Darjeeling district of West Bengal. The work is the most extensive systematic program of dedicated caecilian surveys ever attempted.
Discovery of a new vertebrate (animals with backbone) family is a rare feat in science and most of the world’s 61 amphibian families were described in the mid-1800s. The majority of new discoveries come from remote tropical rainforests. However, the new family described here is mainly from human-inhabited areas. “This makes the conservation of species more challenging”, said Prof SD Biju from University of Delhi who led the research.
Source and more information can be found here: New family of legless burrowing amphibian discovered in India’s vanishing habitats