Taxonomic studies over the past decade of the endemic Night Frog genus Nyctibatrachus (originally described in 1882) from Peninsular India have more than tripled, from 11 at the turn of this century to 36 by 2017. Despite these revisionary contributions, it is still challenging for field biologists to identify night frog species reliably, due to a near-complete absence of diagnostic, discrete character states or trait values. Worse, many questionably diagnosed night frog species' status has ostensibly been “supported” by phylogenies derived from sparsely sampled gene-trees that are based on a single locus or a handful of markers—with topology and arbitrary genetic distance thresholds of 3–6% used to support new species descriptions. We sought to re-evaluate and validate the species boundaries of six currently nominated species of Nyctibatrachus of the aliciae group (N. aliciae, N. periyar, N. deveni, N. pillaii), N. vasanthi, and N. poocha clade using a comprehensive integrative taxonomic approach that integrates classical taxonomy, molecular species delimitation analysis, statistical analysis of morphological characters of adults and larvae, analyses of bioacoustics, and natural history information. Our results indicate that recent descriptions of Nyctibatrachus deveni, N. periyar, and N. pillaii represent cases of taxonomic inflation (over-splitting), because the evidence cited in support of their recognition is irreproducible, subjective, and devoid of strong statistical support. We demonstrate the need for multidimensional species delimitation approaches in the celebrated Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot paleo-endemic genus Nyctibatrachus and suspect that this concerning trend of over-splitting amphibian species based on limited data and untenable support may be applicable to other amphibian groups.
Integration of Ecology, Larval Phenotypes, and Mate-Recognition Signals with Molecular and Morphological Data Indicate Taxonomic Inflation in Nyctibatrachus (Anura: Nyctibatrachidae)
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Robin Kurian Abraham, Ramprasad Rao, Anil Zachariah, Rafe M. Brown; Integration of Ecology, Larval Phenotypes, and Mate-Recognition Signals with Molecular and Morphological Data Indicate Taxonomic Inflation in Nyctibatrachus (Anura: Nyctibatrachidae). Ichthyology & Herpetology 1 September 2022; 110 (3): 526–546. doi: https://doi.org/10.1643/h2020139
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