Gliding Frogs of India

David Raju

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Gliding frogs are a unique and spectacular group in the arboreal frog family Rhacophoridae. In India, there are currently 13 species of which four are endemic to the Western Ghats.

Gliding frogs of the genus Rhacophorus are a unique and spectacular group in the arboreal frog family Rhacophoridae. These tree dwelling frogs are one of diverse and the oldest group, globally. They began to radiate about 50-60 million years ago (between Paleocene to Oligocene) and are distributed largely in South and S. E. Asia, and Africa. The rapid diversification occurred just about the time in which modern day angiosperm plants diversified (Roelants et al. 2007).

In India, there are currently 13 valid species with four species viz., Rhacophorus malabaricus, R. pseudomalabaricus, R. lateralis and R. calcadensis endemic to the Western Ghats (Dinesh et al. 2013). R. maximus, and R. bipunctatus are two of the prominent frogs in Northeast India. In general, the size of these frogs is large (40-90 mm). Skin colour is variable from green in (R. malabaricus) to yellowish green in (R. lateralis) and yellowish orange (R. bipunctatus) to brownish green with ornamentations (R. calcadensis).

A distinct characteristic of these frogs is the highly developed webbing in hands and feet. Presumably, it comes handy when the frogs glide from one tree to another. These frogs are very good climbers and comfortably walk on twigs and tree trunk on all fours. They have dilated finger tips which act like suction cups, useful for a life among leaves on trees, sometimes as high as a 100 ft.

KS Seshadri, an ecologist studying amphibian ecology in the Western Ghats, helped compile this report.

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About the author

David Raju

The author works as a naturalist in a wildlife safari lodge in Central India. He has a special interest in birds, amphibians, dragonflies and butterflies.


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