On 31st of October the CFZ 2010 expedition leaves England. They will be exploring the Garo Hills in Northern India in search of the mande-burung or Indian yeti. The five-man team consists of team leader Adam Davies, Dr Chris Clark, Dave Archer, field naturalist Jonathan McGowan, and cryptozoologist Richard Freeman.

Friday, 5 November 2010

OLL LEWIS: The Little Known Garo Hills Caecilian

As well as the various mammal species I've mentioned in previous blogs, the Garo Hill's is, as one would expect from such a wet part of the world, home to several unique species of amphibian. There is little known about many of the amphibians endemic to the area, some of which are only known to exist from just one or two specimens. This does not mean that the species is particularly rare but that it is probably either illusive or just won't be encountered unless you search in a specific place. For example, we all know that earthworms exist and are very common, but unless you dig into the soil or go outside after heavy rain on a regular basis then you seldom encounter them.

It is, however, difficult to judge the reasons why an animal is seldom encountered, which could be due to a number of factors including low numbers, a fragmented population or simply looking in the wrong places, and in these cases, especially when habitat is threatened, the creature is listed as data deficient in the IUCN's red list in the hope that more will found out about the creature in future and the entry can be updated with a more appropriate category.

One such species is Ichthyophis garoensis, the Garo Hills caecilian. The caecilian was described by Pillai and Ravichandran in 1999 and is known from only two specimens. The caecilian is seldom encountered as it lives in moist leaf litter, apparently venturing to the surface very rarely indeed. According to the red list(http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/59617/0) the species is known to inhabit the Anogiri Lake area of the Garo Hills and may also be found in Assam, where several specimens thought to be of the same species have been spotted. Because the only known specimens were both been found close to water one assumption is that the caecilians are aquatic in their larval stage. Like many species that live in the Garo Hills the species is potentially under threat from loss of habitat through logging or forest clearances, so unless humanity is careful we could loose this enigmatic species before we learn much more about it.

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