This story has all the elements: a citizen scientist, a mobile phone, and the frankly astonishing complexity of Earth’s ecosystems. Our citizen scientist protagonist, C R Naik, sets a model for how to infuse biodiversity monitoring with vigilant attention. This kind of attention blends multiple senses and sets aside assumptions, letting us dig deeper into what’s really happening. This story inspires citizen science participants and scientists to turn our attention to this world with open ears and open minds. – AWA –

A coastal survey in western India has spawned the discovery of a new species hiding in plain sight. Tadpoles turning into frogs are nothing new, but when a bird is miraculously transformed into an amphibian – and a previously unknown one at that – it’s time to sit up and take notice. In a bizarre turn of events that gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘metamorphosis’, a frog whose call was initially mistaken for the more familiar sound made by a white-throated kingfisher has just been confirmed as a new species.

It was citizen science that first shed light on the true identity of the Karaavali skittering frog, named after the region where it was first recorded. In the local Kannada language widely spoken in the state of Karnataka, Karaavali is the name for India’s west coast. A local forester, C R Naik, was monitoring the biodiversity around his coastal village in order to document the bird, snake and frog species in the vicinity. Having realised that the kingfisher-like call was actually being emitted by a frog, he had the presence of mind to record it on his mobile phone. During subsequent fieldwork in the Western Ghats he played back the recording to a team of scientists, including several herpetologists, who naturally assumed that they were listening to a bird.

Photo credit: Karaavali skittering frog, by Naik C R

Source: A frog in kingfisher’s clothing