New frog family from India reveals an ancient biogeographical link with the Seychelles
Biju, S.D. and Bossuyt, F.
About 96% of the more than 4,800 living anuran species1 belong to the Neobatrachia or advanced frogs2–4. Because of the extremely poor representation of these animals in the Mesozoic fossil record, hypotheses on their early evolution have to rely largely on extant taxa5–7. Here we report the discovery of a burrowing frog from India that is noticeably distinct from known taxa in all anuran families. Phylogenetic analyses of 2.8 kilobases of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA unambiguously designate this frog as the sister taxon of Sooglossidae, a family exclusively occurring on two granitic islands of the Seychelles archipelago8. Furthermore, molecular clock analyses9 uncover the branch leading to both taxa as an ancient split in the crown-group Neobatrachia. Our discovery discloses a lineage that may have been more diverse on Indo-Madagascar in the Cretaceous period, but now only comprises four species on the Seychelles and a sole survivor in India. Because of its very distinct morphology and an inferred origin that is earlier than several neobatrachian families10, we recognize this frog as a new family.