Encounter: The Bronzed Frog

In April 2006, we trekked from the Iruppu waterfalls in Kodagu (Coorg) to the Brahmagiri peak on the Karnataka-Kerala border. After crossing the lower bamboo-dominated patches we crossed a transition zone and reached a nice shola patch at the edge of the high-altitude grassland.

That's where we saw the frog. We found this individual near a small clear-water stream where we had stopped for lunch. In the dappled sunlight of the shola floor, a few individuals were perched on rocks close to the water. It was wet and quite well camouflaged among the rust, brown and maroon leaves sticking to wet stream rocks. The Bronzed Frog was not shy and stayed with us while we lunched, graciously allowing us to photograph it and allowing a close approach.

The common name of the frog is derived from the striking bronze strips that begin from near the snout, continue down the lower jaw, and run along the sides of the body to the lower limbs. The back is brown with bronze spotting and the hind limbs have broken bronze stripes. These strips appear just after the metamorphosis is complete. The Bronzed Frog is an important prey species for the Malabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus), another endemic species that loves the same moist, wet and green canopy-covered shola habitat. Hylarana temporalis was first described in 1864 and is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. It is found in the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats and the Sri Lankan highlands.
Hylarana temporalis or Bronzed Frog is similar to Hylarana aurantiaca, another endemic. H. temporalis is also found in slightly disturbed areas, but H. aurantiaca prefers only fairly pristine canopy-covered streams.
While an alarming die-out of amphibians, especially frogs, has been recorded in recent years, new species continue to be discovered across the world, including the Western Ghats. In early 2009, amphibian researchers S.D. Biju of Delhi University's Systematics Lab and Franky Bossuyt of the Amphibian Evolution Lab of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel announced the discovery of 12 new species of tree frogs from the Western Ghats. Dr Biju also rediscovered the Travancore Bushfrog (Philautus travancoricus), which had not been sighted in 100 years and was hence believed to be extinct. Approximately 126 amphibian species have been described from the Western Ghats.

Another species, Raorchestes resplendens, was recently described from the Eravikulam National Park and is believed to be restricted to a 3 sq km range on the summit of Anaimudi (the highest peak in the Western Ghats), further reinforcing the status of the Western Ghats as an important bio-diversity hotspot.
Text and photographs by Sahastrarashmi
Thanks to K S Gopi Sundar for ID help.