With a smile plastered forever across its face, begging eyes that could bring a 5-month old babe to shame, squirming when intrusive objects are run across its inner thighs, and a grace that could befit a ballerina, a frog is more human than genetics let on. Okay, perhaps not the flies, though I have a hunch that if we looked at human history closer, we would find ancestors smacking their lips, barbequing flies gossiping over a crackling bonfire.
My trip to Kerala volunteering on the project ‘Evaluation and Assessment of the Chytrid Fungus in Amphibian Populations in the Western Ghats’ gave me an opportunity to observe these characters more closely than ever. The chytrid fungus is a deadly fungus that has been known to wipe out frog populations across the world, similar to numerous epidemics that have been assailing human populations since centuries on end. Here are some of the interesting characters from the frog world that we encountered:
Pseudophilautus: This frog was the ultimate metrosexual Casanova- dark yet not quite, with a sprinkling of gold and silver rogue shining out from its underbelly, and perfectly shaped yellow finger-pads, singing its vocal sacs out, forever a ladies man.
Euphlyctis (Skittering Frog): This frog was the mischief-maker, the boy who rings the doorbell and is too slippery to get your hands on and give a good thrashing. To be fair, the frog does secrete a slimy substance to facilitate escape once caught. In frog world, he would most certainly be god, what with its ability to literally walk on water (more like skittering, but if exageration didn’t make god, what did?)
Fejervarya: The mdoern insurgent. Expertly camouflaged until you almost step on them, hiding around human habiatation as well as in forests, and wearing the scars of battle in the form of a missing limb or two, these frogs could teach a lesson or two to rebels. Or to the police. Or maybe both.
Indirana: These are the daredevils, rock-climbing is in their blood and with a fashionable coma-shaped tattoo across their ears, they are ready to take on the world.
Hylarana temporalis: This is the frog athlete. Lithe limbed and forever on the alert, this guy is a long-jump champion- always one step ahead of pesky predators(or in this case desperate biologists)
Raorchestes akroparallagi: This frog is the flirtatious lover- hidden behind curtains of green, forever calling out to you, as your befuddled brain searches desperately for the source. It sounds suspiciously like a Gumnaan, and I was in the midst of an intense personal debate over ‘Flirty Frog vs Freaky Frog’ when I remembered the innocent charm that reflected off it under the flickering torchlight. Flirty Frog tugs at your heartstrings, every single time.
Rhacophorus malabaricus: Much has been said about the endemic Malabar Gliding Frog. A celebrity without the tantrums, forever ready to pose for the camera, and escaping in a specially designed glider when the pressure becomes too much to handle, the Malabar Gliding Frog is India’s next Superstar.
Hoplobatrachus tigerinus: The bizarre American- complete with a ridiculous yellow and blue garb during the mating season (Britons would likely nod in agreement at ‘bizarre’) and (if I wanted to poke fun at the slightly over healthy) endowed with all the obesity that would warrant the frog dropping dead of heart disease. (I take back the obesity remark, seeing that people in glass houses aren’t in any position to throw stones at others). Contrary to its American association, the frog is known as the Indian Bullfrog (which actually makes more sense - gold rings adorning every finger, t-shirts with cheesy pick-up lines, tomato red pants and scissor-shaped earings plus a diet of buttery pav bhaji, cheese-burst pizzas and rasagollas: here’s your quintessential urban Indian)
Clinotarsus curtipes: If I had to have a crush in the frog world, it would be on the Bicolored Frog. He’s the James Bond of the frog world- the Sean Connery one mind you, not the insipid charm of Pierce Brosnan or senior citizen Daniel Craig. Sitting tall, dignified, wearing a cream & black suit with a speckling of white and orange to match his uber cool personality, this fellow hops across a velvet chocolate carpet of leaves, next to gurlging stream beds. You almost expect him to swish around on his toes like a ballerina or to do a Cowboy gun swivel. Unlike the Hylarana though, he was rather unsuccessful at escaping from us wretched science-people.
Next time we are in the Ghats, lets ask the driver to use those car brakes coz squishing frogs certainly ain’t cool. Neither is encroaching illegally on their land, driving them towards batracho-suicidal tendencies. Besides, homicide is a punishable offence inviting insect invasions, subsequent starvation and death.
P.S: Keerthi, you were right after all :P
(with edits from Keerthi Krutha)
Ramblings on wildlife sharing spaces with non-wild humans