Scientists: New amphibian family augurs more India discoveries
An adult Chikilidae, a new family of legless amphibian known as a caecilian, is shown with eggs and hatchlings in India.
February 23rd, 2012
07:27 PM ET

Scientists: New amphibian family augurs more India discoveries

Scientists have found what they say is a new family of legless amphibians in Northeast India - animals they say may have diverged from similar vertebrates in Africa when the land masses separated tens of millions of years ago.

The find, the scientists say, might foreshadow other discoveries in Northeast India and might help show the area played a more important evolutionary role than previously thought.

The creatures are part of an order of limbless, soil-dwelling amphibians called caecilians - not to be confused with snakes, which are reptiles. Caecilians were previously known to consist of nine families in Asia, Africa and South America.

But different bone structures in the head distinguish this apparent 10th family, and DNA testing links the creatures not to other caecilians in India, but to caecilians that are exclusively from Africa, the scientists report this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.

The new family has been dubbed Chikilidae by the scientists from India, Belgium and the United Kingdom, including lead author Rachunliu Kamei, who was pursuing her doctorate at University of Delhi. The team found them during what it believes is the first caecilian survey in Northeast India, digging at 238 sites from 2006 to 2010.

“It’s an amazing thing to find a new family, especially vertebrates, in this day in age,” Global Wildlife Conservation president Don Church, who was not part of the team but knows Kamei and the team’s other scientists, told CNN on Thursday. “Birds, reptiles and amphibians really were thought to have been well worked out at the family level.”

The burrowing amphibians “exhibit an intriguing and highly specialized reproductive behavior,” the team’s leader, University of Delhi professor Sathyabhama Das Biju, told The Times of India.

“The mother builds underground nests for her eggs, guards her egg-clutch by coiling around them until the embryos hatch after 2-3 months,” he told The Times of India. “The eggs undergo direct development - they feed on the yolk reserves and come out as miniature adults.”

Residents of the area had mistaken the amphibians for snakes, the Indian news outlet reported.

Chikilidae’s link to the African caecilians, and its divergence and survival in Northeast India during the subcontinent’s isolation before it joined with Asia, suggests the area had long-term ecological stability. That suggests it might have more life endemic to that region than is currently recognized, the scientists say in the report.

Scientists traditionally have viewed Northeast India as just a passageway where flora and fauna moved between biodiversity hotspots in Southeast Asia and a different part of India, Church said.

“Now, with a study like this, we realize that this part of the world is important not just for the movement of plants and animals between the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia, but an important area for evolution in its own right,” Church said.

“This discovery begs the question: What else has happened up there in terms of evolution of life in Northeast India?” he added.

Geographically distinct Northeast India has not been studied well, and many other undocumented creatures and flora may await there, according to the team. The region is almost cut off from the rest of India, nearly surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar and China.

Time, they say, is of the essence.

“Further explorations and conservation actions are urgent because the region’s biodiversity is generally under high threat from the growing resident human population and rapid deforestation,” the scientists say in their report.

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Filed under: Amphibians • Animals • India • Nature • Science
soundoff (516 Responses)
  1. Maggie

    If we are just evolved by mere chance then why should we care about each other or anything for that matter? It serves no purpose because there is no meaning to life. Do you actually believe that? I know you do not because the very reason you are looking into science it is because you are searching for why you are here otherwise what is the point?

    February 24, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      aggie, science answers How, When and What questions through the scientific method. Religion answers Why. Reason and faith are perfectly compatable! Evolution is accepted Scientific Theory, and gene analysis of humans across the globe indicates that it is impossible for humans to have originated from a single mated pair – Adam and Eve. Biblical non-literalist people of faith like me have no problem accepting scientific truth.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Cranky

      We do not care about each other. War. QED

      February 24, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • MyTake

      Maggie – is does not matter what I believe ... the fact are facts ... if you were educated enough to understand where these facts come from you would understand .. but sadly you do not ...

      February 24, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Cranky

      Leo, you make a good and welcome argument in the right direction.

      Why has so much of American Christianity allowed itself to be hijacked by shallow literalism and pugnacious sloganeering?

      February 24, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      So your proof that there is a God is that you cannot fathom that there can be meaning to life without one? Sorry, but that only proves your limitations in abstract logic.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Flippy

      I find it pretty sad that you require worshipping a deity to have purpose.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Athiest Al

      Life is the meaning you twit. You don't need god or gods to find good. Close the bible and start spending time hear on earth and you will see the meaning of life and nature. Jeez.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Leo,
      I assume you realize that a significant amount of what we accept as scientific fact today will be proven to be a hoax in the future. Facts are only facts until they are proven to be wrong, which happens at an increasing rate. Or do you still accept the scientifically proven concept that the world is flat?

      February 24, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Miss Such-and-Such

      Maggie: This article is about a worm-like amphibian living in India. It is not an article about religion. There is nothing in this article that touches on whether or not there is a purpose to life, or the reasons why human beings care about each other. I do not understand why you are bringing this up in this forum.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Tapan

      Maggie – your statement fits the quote "My ignorance is as good as your knowledge!" ... If you think revolution is not real, why dont you write a paper on that and send it to a scientific journal and let the panel go through your evidence and publish/not publish.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      We care about each other because our emotions make us care. Emotions, sympathy, empathy, morals all come from within us as does our desire to know where we came from. So science does answer the What, How, When, and Why. Religion does not answer anything. It only prays upon the ignorant and tries to stop any scientific advancement. I find it extremely hypocrytical that so many so called christians utilize all the new technology that science creates everyday even though religion says it is wrong.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Geronimo

      @Athiest Al
      : You are a fake Atheist. You sign off with "Jeez" HAHAHAHAHA
      Just kiddin'
      This planet has no room for religious kinds. They are destroying us.
      There is an exception though: Buddhism
      They dont believe in god but still they are disciplined and good.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • beelzabarber

      Leo...you're a genius (I mean that). Leo for president! Common sense and understanding are disappearing in this world. We need more Leo's

      February 24, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Peabody M. Clamjuice, Ph. D

      "If we are just evolved by mere chance then why should we care about each other or anything for that matter?" No wonder you psychopaths need gods to hold you back if that's the way you think. So, if you decided there was no God, you'd turn into Hannibal Lecter? Not me; I love my wife and family, I have friends and a job that benefits society directly. I work to feed my family, but I also create in my spare time, things for my own amusement and for others. I made a cartoon that got lots of hits on YouTube, and I like to think of people laughing at it. I live in a beautiful place; right now I have flowers coming out and a tree blooming in my yard, and birds are singing. Life's beautiful for its own sake, regardless of what you believe. And I know your intent was to insult me and hurt my feelings, very Christian of you, but you really do seem bewildered by the idea that people with divergent opinions are human.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. jimbo

    yeah it just looks like a worm.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      I was about to say the same thing about you!

      February 24, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  3. God or No God

    If you have faith, great enjoy. Believe whatever you want, that is what makes America great. If you do not believe also great, enjoy that too. Either way STFU!!!

    February 24, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • werdie

      i guess, but no STFU

      February 24, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. CatfishMammy

    Good Lawd!! That there be look like da bait Tyron use on he cane pole to catch da catfish!!! Praise da Lawd we done got new worm to fish wid!!

    February 24, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    Are they man-eaters ?

    February 24, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • high hopes

      Hey You:

      They look like the worms that ate their way through Carpe's brain!

      Quick fry 'em in the pan!

      😀

      February 24, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  6. God or No God

    If you have faith, great enjoy. Believe whatever you want, that is what makes America great. If you do not believe also great, enjoy that too. Either way STFU!!! YOURE NOT CONVERTING ANYONE WITH YOUR MINDLESS BLABBER, ATHIESTS BELIEVE THEYRE RIGHT AND THIESTS BELIEVER THEYRE RIGHT! YOURE ARE NOT CHANGING ANYONES MIND. Just be happy that youre not dead and enjoy life for what it is, a crazy miracle either way you look at it. If we were created, holy crap! can you even begin to comprehend how amazing that is? If we evolved can you see how amazing nature is what we have become, the odds that we are here today are astronomical! So either way I know whats happening to me when I die, do you? If you do keep it to yourself...

    February 24, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • JackoB

      Hey dude, I just came here to read about amphibians...

      February 24, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • God or No God

      They are pretty sweet right.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • MyTake

      Atheist and Theist maybe wrong ... but the fact Evolution are facts ...

      February 24, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Miss Such-and-Such

      How did this become a religious debate? The article is about a little animal that lives in India and doesn't even go to church.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • God or No God

      Hahahahaha so true, I just got tired of reading all these rediculous comments and forgot about the important things, these little wormy doos.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Yeah! Well all be food for the Caecilians!

      February 24, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Maggie

    there is nothing wrong with science, it is a good thing. However, science can not answer the questions that bug us all. Why we are here? for a example take a cake: science can tell you all the elements in the cake and how the cake was make. but if you need to know why the cake was made only the maker can provide you with that detail. You can make plenty assumptions but can you be sure.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • anotherview

      we are here because of the fertilization process between a sperm and an egg.

      Oh, that's right. People like you didn't remember to read.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Miss Such-and-Such

      What is your point? The article is about a new type of amphibian that looks just like an extra-gross worm. It has nothing to do with your questions about cake.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • MonarchzMan

      The funny thing is that science can answer in part the why. There are evolutionary reasons to care about one another (group survival, for example, ensures the persistence of a species). In fact, most of human behavior and interests can be explained through evolution depending on the scale you look at (for example, liking bacon can be equated to particular taste buds that are excited by the flavor and which trigger responses in the brain).

      I would suggest reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins if you really want to understand why we're here. We're really just here to pass on our seed to the next generation.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Peabody M. Clamjuice, Ph. D

      "Why we are here? " Apparently you are here to grind on and on about your beliefs, while sneering at us for being excited about scientific progress.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. MyTake

    Looks like some courageous science denier with no ideas, education or rebuttal of his own is posting on a stolen LetsGetReal. Typical.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Peabody M. Clamjuice, Ph. D

      He was being me a while ago too. I'm sure his god is really impressed with his fervor and will give him an Extra Large halo when he dies. A bit like "bearing false witness," I'm sure, but so what?

      February 24, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. TheMiddleWay

    Posts here trying to prove the existence of a supernatural god and purpose are utter and complete nonsense. Purpose, just like god(s), is a man-made idea used to explain the world and our place in it. Purpose does not exist outside of the sphere of human beings. The ability to attribute "purpose" is an evolutionary tool used by human beings to push themselves to survive in places they otherwise wouldn't be able to. It is an adaptive trait for survival–nothing more, nothing less. It is just like human beings' false ideas about beginnings and endings. Beginnings and endings represent human sensory-perception relative to forms (the evolved, systemically-determined arrangements, patterns, and interactions of the elemental substances, matter and energy, within the field of space-time) and events. The elemental substances of the Universe (matter and energy) themselves are eternal, as proven by the Thermodynamic Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy. Life being an inherent state of matter and energy that is expressed given the right conditions is an exciting proposition that we should celebrate. Our current form may not be eternal, but we should be happy knowing that we are the eternal stuff of stars and the cosmos and likely to be part of something else that is alive in the future. We are a part of the Whole of Reality (otherwise known as What Is, Nature, or the Universe). That should be enough.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • chocub

      You make excellent sense. Thank you for articulating what I wish every human being on the planet would learn and embrace (only I know that will never happen). Cheers.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Miss Such-and-Such

    Those are gross.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. bob

    Why do bible thumpers read science articles ? must scare them

    February 24, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Peabody M. Clamjuice, Ph. D

      They hope to convert us and get us to send money, I guess. Science really freaks them out.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tate

    They look just like worms to me too. I wonder how big they are. If people are mistaking them for snakes, I assume they are very large. Large snake-sized creatures that look like earth worms is definitely worth exploring. If they are the size of regular earth worms, then I don't see what the big deal is. They are probabaly just another type of worm.

    February 24, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Miss Such-and-Such

      Worms are invertebrates. These things have a spine.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Chaz

      These creatures are not worms, they are amphibians, meaning they have a skeleton. That is the difference. They are closer to slamanders and frogs than they are to worms.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  13. Nick26

    Are they sure those aren't just oversized worms?

    February 24, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    A vertabrate that has evolved to live in the same niche as an invertabrate. I find that pretty interesting. I would like to know what it eats, and if it's mouth parts are similiar to a typical amphibian (frog, newts, etc.) or like an earthworms'.

    February 24, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Dang, I knew I was spelling vertebrates wrong

      February 24, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  15. Maggie

    Fact: Scientists say that we are evolving every day and the bible says that we are dying. Are evolving or de-evolving? from the day that we are born we are dying and that is a fact. how are we getting better as a human race? Have we been able to solve our basic problems that plague us from the beginning of time. The answer is no, no, and no. Have we made progress? What would you call progress? Is going to moon real progress when it fact we can not even getting alone with our next door neighbor? With all the discoveries and all the research we have accomplish nothing because we are more miserable than ever always going after the wing.

    February 24, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Aren't you the debbie downer. I thought your religion was supposed to provide you hope? It doesn't appear to working.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Miss Such-and-Such

      Maggie: Individuals don't evolve. Only species can evolve. Yes, the human race has been solving its problems since the dawn of human time. But we don't solve our problems through evolution, we solve them through intelligence. In a way, the human race as evolved beyond evolution.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      What has the Bible done then, Maggie? We are all going to die one day regardless of what science or a book tells us.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Peabody M. Clamjuice, Ph. D

      "Have we been able to solve our basic problems that plague us from the beginning of time. " My mom had breast cancer over twenty years ago. I had a heart attack last year. We survived because of good doctors, not priests or medicine men. I can fly to California in a day, summon doctors from a phone in my pocket, call up moving pictures of dead people and talk to people in Europe by text.

      February 24, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
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