Why in news?

  •  There is an ongoing campaign in Kerala to declare ‘Maveli’, the purple frog as Kerala’s State Amphibian, making it first of its kind in India.

Roots in mythology:

  •  Mahabali, or Maveli, was a benevolent asura king who ruled over the region of Kerala but was banished into the netherworld by Lord Vishnu in order to appease the gods.
  •  But Maveli was granted one wish: he could return to Kerala for a single day and meet his subjects.
  •  This day in Kerala came to be celebrated as ‘Thiruvonam’, the most auspicious day of Onam when people would greet their old king.

Purple Frog:

  • Quite similar to the lore of King Maveli, researchers have found that the Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), which lives almost its entire life in underground tunnels, comes out to the surface for a single day in a year to breed.
  •  Once it lays it’s eggs, the bloated frogs characterized by a protruding snout and powerful hind legs return to the earth’s deepest layers.
  •  This intriguing frog species is listed as Endangered on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  •  It feeds mostly on soil-mites, ants and termites using its fluted tongue.
  •  The male and female frogs mate underground and once in a year, they come out on the surface to lay thousands of eggs near seasonal streams in the months of May-June.
  •  How they time their emergence onto the surface along with the onset of early rains is a mystery that continues to baffle naturalists.

Why is it so special?

  •  It’s endemic to this part of the southern Western Ghats and cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Described for the first time in 2003 by two scientists in the jungles of Kerala, the species sparks feverish imagination among herpetologists worldwide for a number of reasons.
  •  It’s evolutionary roots suggest it could have shared space with dinosaurs going back almost 70 million years ago.
  •  This could help scientists understand how it’s population may have evolved and learned to overcome the challenges of shifting land masses.
  •  A year after it was documented, the frog’s closest relatives were found in Seychelles, an island in the Indian Ocean off East Africa.
  •  This discovery led many to ask whether the species could indeed be living proof of the theory of Gondwanaland.

Another proof for continental drift:

  •  Mammals and rodents have often travelled the seas through ships and with voyagers. But amphibians can’t tolerate salinity.
  • So it’s a possibility that the landmass could have been connected (for the species’ close relatives to be found on two continents today).
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