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)

    I Like turtles!

    February 24, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. Brett

    Looks a lot like a worm to me.

    February 24, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      A worm with bones. And eggs. Other than that...

      February 24, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. P Calvert *AND* age..., not 'day in age'

    February 24, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Shove it

      Your mother must be so proud.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • P Calvert

      She was, and so was my Grammar. You're late for school.

      Is it really too much to ask journalists to proof read?

      February 24, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • sumday

      The entire purpose of written communication is transfer a thought to another person. If that is accomplished then written communication has served its entire purpose regardless of grammar errors. If I write you’re or I write your the general population know what the correct intent is- we are not computers that get hung up on the tiniest of errors, but highly complex organism capable of figuring out and understanding what another person was trying to say regardless of errors. In fact if you get the first and last letters right but reorder all the other letters in a word the brain is capable of deciphering it almost automatically- thus again proving how trivial your spelling and grammar comments are. Besides that I excelled in math and science in school- you know those subjects that have advanced humans to the technical age, but I lacked in trivial subjects like spelling, grammar and English. I’ll put my math skills against your grammar skill any day.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Will

      Given your poor logic Sunday, I don't think your math skills are very good. If the entire point of communication is to transfer ideas, then "close enough" isn't good enough. Communication through words must be exact and correct, in spelling, grammar and on topic, to correctly convey its ideas. Otherwise, you end up risking a miscommunication. And it keeps you from looking stupid. If a writer can't use the correct version of your or you're, I'm more inclined to dismiss his pr her ideas because clearly the person is stupid.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • P Calvert

      If a poster made the mistake, I'd ignore it. But journalists should not be part of the erosion of language.

      Three cups. Ten cubes. Using all ten cubes, put an odd number of cubes in each cup.

      You don't know me. Don't make illogical assumptions.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Politico

    So, one group found some of these in India. Haven't looked elsewhere for them, but everything else they study show that India is just a migration path from one area to another.

    But IF this evolved here, and IF we find more, then we COULD HAVE a really, really big story. So far, not so much, but let's make a story out of it. Heck, throw it in the headlines. "New amphibian family augurs more India discoveries"

    Geeze, if you look in my back yard and find new species, couldn't that be newsworthy? Why not do a story on that?

    February 24, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • duhh

      Its newsworthy because they discovered a new species of vertibrates. If they found a new species in your yard it would also be newsworthy.. i dont understand your point.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • MonarchzMan

      Finding a new family of vertebrates is huge in this day and age of scientific discovery. It's rare to find new species, let alone new genera, let alone new families. That is what is so amazing about the story. Not only that, but it's a caecillian which are very rare and secretive amphibians. In this day and again of amphibian decline and extinction finding a whole new family of them is no less than extraordinary.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • dk

      yeah. what is the point?... is it to minimalize the soundbyte of this hardworking research group's discovery? I sense a racially biased undertone....

      February 24, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Politico is jealous?

      February 24, 2012 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Samwise

      "if you look in my back yard and find new species, couldn't that be newsworthy?"

      Yes, it would. Are you kidding? You might get naming rights. Call it "Elephas roseus politico" or something. Probably 90% of the animals in the world have been discovered and classified by now; new finds are big news.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kenneth

    i use these things to fish for blue gill all the time!

    February 24, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Beverly Roberts

      I agree looks like a regular old fishing worm to me. Don't they fish in India and know what one is?????????????

      February 24, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      No, you don't, Kenneth. Earthworms don't have bones.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. Diana

    It's a malechleck borg species. Very interesting!

    February 24, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. XtianNation

    Why do they always have to throw that bs about EVILution into every science story?!? It's never been proven and in fact is still only a theory!!!! They might as well say that this thing "evolved" from the Lockness Monster!!!!!

    February 24, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Lynn Ann

      Exactly and these "scientists" try and convince us Christians that the world is millions of years old when we know it is 7,000 years old.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • DeeNYC

      Proven as fact it's only a theory? If you believe with all the evidence that evolution is a theory then all the evidence proves for a fact that there is no God.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • XtianNation

      @Lynn Ann- There's a LOT of deception coming from EVILutionists!!!! Despite there being no proof for any of their theories they keep presenting them as if they're true!!!! We need to keep up the fight against all of this deception!!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • XtianNation

      @DeeNYC- LOL!!!!! Go ahead, give me this "proof" of no God!!!! Prove that everything came from nothing!!!! I'll wait because there's no such thing!!!! I don't have enough faith to be an atheist!!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Science Lives

      You do realize that the reason you need a flu shot every year is because the virus has EVOLVED past the previous years vacine.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • lizzy

      i feel so sorry for you ... the world is flat and the sun revolves around us right? the bible is not the history of the world

      February 24, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Science Lives

      Don't give the excuse that how could something come from nothing, because your just shooting yourself in the foot since your GOD just magically appeared which would mean came from nothing.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • XtianNation

      @science lives- The flu doesn't evolve it adapts!!!! God has always been there, He didn't just appear so your point is destroyed!!!! Wow!!!! This is the best EVILutionists can do?!? No wonder people are abandoning Evolutionism in droves!!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • barabbas2011

      The earth is flat and man never went to the moon because the moon is flat too.
      Sound logic is sound logic right? hehehehe

      February 24, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • XtianNation

      @lizzy- Ummm yeah, it is!!! Are you calling God a liar?!? The Bible doesn't say that the Earth is flat only atheists claim that it does!!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • blah blah

      "Despite there being no proof for any of their theories they keep presenting them as if they're true!!!! We need to keep up the fight against all of this deception!!!!" From the mouth of the lame horse itself. Can lead a Christian to understanding but you can't make it THINK.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Chas. Farmer

      Sorry, but evolution is real, and there is a vast body of evidence from many different scientific disciplines. "Theory" is just scientific parlance for a generally accepted explanation for an observed phenomenon, backed by sufficient evidence. The sun as the center of the solar system is still "heliocentric theory", even though there's no doubt that it's the case. Why don't you leave 10th century thought to the Muslims and accept science as the only accurate method to describe how and why the natural world operates?

      February 24, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      The Encyclopedia Britannica: Evolution, or the common descent of all living organisms, is a fact as welll established as the facts that the Earth is round, rotates on its axis, and revolves around the Sun.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      It’s impossible to prove God isn’t real. It’s like trying to prove the Easter bunny isn’t real. There true evidence of their existence so how do you disprove it? It is a fact that humans create religions. Since the beginning of time we’ve created thousands of belief systems. We just happen to live in an era and area settled with Christians. If you lived in South America 4000 years ago yuo would think it normal to cut your neighbors heart out to make it rain.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • MonarchzMan

      I do hope that you are joking. In science, theory does not mean what you generally use it as. Colloquially, people use theory like scientists use hypothesis. Evolution is far from that. In fact, scientific theories are so long tested and have so much in the way of evidence that they are accepted as fact. Another important point is that science does not prove anything. That revolves around the concept of falsifiability. It provide evidence in support or opposition of certain hypotheses, but it does not prove it. Even something like gravity is not proven. That said, evolution is a close to "proven" as you are going to get. Period.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Ash

      Kind of ironic that you're using products of Science (computer, internet, 110v of electricity) to denounce science...

      My take on it is that God works in mysterious ways, and every new discovery we make in the field of science just makes me want to glorify Him even more. Take a look at the Hubble Ultra Deep Field picture sometime. I think God created this universe and wants us to explore it, the same way a child excitedly explores a local forest/park for the first time...

      February 24, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Science Lives

      How could your god just always have been there. It would have to come from something. Your placing your faith in an obsolute faith with no proof or evidence. Your mind can't accept the FACT that things don't magically appear or they're just there because they're there and that's what I was told.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • lizzy

      i never said the bible said the earth was flat. wow people

      February 24, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Chas. Farmer

      What's more, while observable, testable, and independently verifiable evidence for evolution can be found in the fields of geology, paleontology, comparative anatomy, genetics, and others, there is not a shred of evidence that God exists at all, let alone has had any role in the creation, ordering, or progression of the universe or anything in it. And, that's why creationism/intelligent design simply cannot be offered as a credible alternative to evolution in science classes.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • XtianNation

      So the only responses I get are "it's just proven" or "evolution is a fact" but no EVIDNECE to back it up!!!! Just as I thought!!!!! Atheists believe in evolution on faith otherwise they'd have some evidence instead of simply insisting that it's true!!!! Thank you for proving my point for me!!!

      @science lives- He's God, the Alpha and Omega, the creator of the universe!!!! He is eternal and all-powerful!!!! He is the uncaused cause responsible for all we see!!!! Yes, I'm using my faith to believe that it's the God of the Abraham but the existence of a first cause is obvious!!!! You can't have an infinite regression!!!! Something had to always exists and create everything else, I just happen to believe that it was God Almighty!!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • X-Xtian

      I find it hilarious how XtianNation is an exaggeration of the anti-evolution crowd (or is this the norm?) Steadfast faith or just plain ignorant? You be the judge. Oh wait, if you're a true Christian, you're not supposed to judge- at all, on anything, ever.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • dk

      @XtianNation... technically viruses did adapt.... by means of evolution. Viruses alter their DNA after replicating in a host. This is inevitable. Otherwise they simply wouldn't exist. Once you're cured from a viral infection, the virus would cease to exist. Unfortunately, viruses adapt by evolving and altering their DNA so that our immune defense system has to adjust to fight off the new infectious virus. HIV is real. So is the flu virus and all its variants. I am a Christian and a scientist.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • ColoNative75

      I believe in God but I do not have proof that he exists. I’m sorry Xi but you can’t make the argument that there is no proof that evolution exists when you state that it is a fact that God exists.

      And, let’s please not bring Christianity into this. Believing in God and claiming a certain religion are not the same thing. In fact, God and religion have nothing to do with each other. God is a higher power and religion is a club that people belong to.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • XtianNation

      @Chas. Farmer- Everyone keeps talking about this supposed evidence but never presents it!!! I already mentioned that an uncaused cause must exist and that's an obvious fact!!!!! Just use your common sense!!!! I happen to believe that's it's God because of faith and other evidence but that's outside the scope of this discussion!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • blah blah

      Why is it that you, without warrant, not only denounce (it is your right, sure) Evolution and therefore modern science but then push your book of fairy tales on everyone? Let alone the fact that not everyone claimed to be an atheist. You're a hypocrite and you are very self righteous. ...but that's just my opinion (my right as well).

      February 24, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • XtianNation

      @dk- Well if you're going to call THAT evolution then by that definition viruses evolve but that's not the same thing as a monkey becoming a human which is what they teach in schools!!! If the theory of evolution simply said that viruses change their DNA then I'd have no problem with it!!! It's the fantastical claims that man came from sludge that I have a big problem with!!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • blah blah

      Google: Galapagos Islands

      February 24, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • ColoNative75

      XtianNation – its fantastical that man evolved from a a monkey but it is completely plausable that a higher power that no one has ever seen created man and World in 7 days. That woman was made from a mans rib and so on......

      Again, I beleive in God but come on.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      'Proven as fact it's only a theory? If you believe with all the evidence that evolution is a theory then all the evidence proves for a fact that there is no God.'

      1. So say *some* Christians, for the most part these are evangelicals.

      The rest of us (Christians, some of whom also happen to be scientists) realise that there's nothing in science that disproves the existence of God or a Higher Power. There are scientists who disbelieve in God. That's their prerogative

      February 24, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • XtianNation

      @ColoNative75- Actually people DID see God!!! And they recorded their experience for everyone to read about!!!! An all-powerful being making a woman from a rib is MUCH more plausible than a monkey randomly becoming a man and then another monkey randomly becoming a woman at the exact same time!!! The chances of that happening are insanely low!!!

      @blah blah- What ABOUT the Galapagos Islands?!? You're not SERIOUSLY going to present Darwin's finches?!? Different beak sizes on birds does not mean that monkeys became men!!!!

      February 24, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Blast, hit the enter key by accident.

      2) Evolution is a 'theory' as in the 'theory' of gravity. Disbelieve in it all you like but you're still stuck fast to the planet, Christians and nonbelievers alike.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • blah blah

      People saw God. And they wrote about it. OK. Have you ever researched the many translations of your favorite book? Do you know where those stories came from? Some people are proof that not all men/women made it to humans from primates... some are still stuck.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Chas. Farmer

      XtianNation: You ask for specific evidence, and I suppose I could cut and paste all the evidence I could find in a post, but that would be one long post. I think that's not the intent of this forum. I suggest you do some research on evolution - WikiPedia can probably give you a decent primer on the subject, and I'm sure it will include many examples of the evidence that makes it possible for the scientific community to accept evolution as fact. Is every detail of evolution agreed upon? No, but that's part of the scientific method. Observe, test, verify, and develop a "theory" that best explains what you observe based on evidence gathered. If someone else with a better explanation of particular details, and can show testable and verifiable evidence for it, then the theory may be adjusted to the satisfaction of a majority of the scientific community. That's why you won't hear the term "proof" in science, but rather "evidence", because better tools and methods can result in refinements over time.
      As for God, I'm sorry, but there's simply no evidence for the existence of God. Remember, it's not up to anyone to prove something doesn't exist; it's up to the person who says something exists to offer evidence that it does. And, no, the Bible isn't evidence. The Bible pre-supposes the existence of God and was written and compiled by people who had no doubt that God exists, and therefore offered no concrete evidence. Using the Bible as evidence of the existence of God is like using the Iliad as evidence of the existence of the Greek pantheon.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Wow, XianNation, your comment above proves 2 things for certain:

      A: that you know nothing about the theory of evolution, and A1: Humans did not evolve *from* apes.

      B: that your LACK of understanding of evolution encompasses the fact that apes and humans had a *common* ancestor. This link has yet to be discovered, but it's more likely that there are a number of intermediate forms which resulted in evolutionary dead ends. Some of these have been discovered and cataloged.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • anotherview

      xtiannation: I'd refrain from calling your man made god a "he". If it exists at all, she'd be mighty offended at your remarks.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Cranky

      And what of the people who allow the essence of Christianity to be discounted and annihilated by accepting facile sloganeering as "Christianity", continuing to embrace and amplify an inessential dichotomy around evolution?

      February 24, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Samwise

      "Well if you're going to call THAT evolution then by that definition viruses evolve but that's not the same thing as a monkey becoming a human which is what they teach in schools!!! " You are bearing false witness against us, and you know your god isn't going to come around and chide you for it. You are no more a believer in god than I am. Number one, yes, we're going to call "that" evolution, because that's what it is. Dump a bunch of black rats on a white beach and see how fast the cats catch them, all except the two white ones. They survive to breed, and that's all evolution means. See? Number two, nobody teaches anything remotely like "monkeys become humans." You know very well what they actually teach, unless you are a dropout or "homeschooled." Your words are lies. and wasn't Terry Pratchett who said multiple exclamation points are the sign of a crazy mind?

      February 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Agent Orange

    Filthy Indians will eat them to extinction.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Arun

      First have respect for other country people. How would you know that Indians would eat them? What do you know about India. You are just jealous that Indians are evolving in every field to become a super power very soon.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. Omen

    Looks like my worm he he he

    February 24, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Peabody M. Clamjuice, Ph. D

      You poor fellow. You must have Ed Zachary disease.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jeremiah

    it is not a worm it has bones dummy

    February 24, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. derrrr

    where or better yet which end and how does it manage to lay it's eggs/or what ever thoes things are called?

    February 24, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    They are...interesting looking.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mattski

    "King Phillip Comes Over For Good Steaks". I guess it doesn't work any more. Too many 'sub-this' and 'super-that' these days...

    February 24, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      I always used "From Great Scott" instead of "For Great Steaks". But yours makes more sense. Whatever helps you pass the science exam. I wrote a good story about Roy G Biv one time, too.

      February 24, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. GEB


    February 24, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    Maybe they'll find a Yeti!

    February 24, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
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