Amphibians are considered to be the best indicators of environmental health. A decline in amphibian populations indicates ecosystem deterioration that might affect a wider spectrum of the earth's biological diversity. During the last 12 years there has been a great concern, worldwide, about the rapid decline in amphibian populations. Many reasons have been attributed to the loss of amphibians including habitat loss, UV-B radiation, global warming, toxic chemicals, pathogens that destroy eggs and larval stages, direct harvest and other. Of these, loss of habitat seems to be the most significant factor, at least in tropical countries.
In this book, 72 species of Indian amphibians including caecilians have been described. These amphibians are common and widely distributed in peninsular India and represent about one third of all amphibian species known in India. The descriptions are simple and contain, although limited, details of other closely-related species, taking the actual number of amphibian species discussed to well over 100.
The many illustrations provided throughout the species accounts and the illustrated keys should make it possible for students and amateur naturalists to identify amphibians in the field without much difficulty. To avoid any confusion that might arise from scientific names that keep changing, those names that have been the most consistently used in India names that have been retained in this book. However, all recent changes have been included as synonyms. Additionally, an appendix that lists out all the known species of Indian amphibians (at the time that the book was written) has been provided.
R J Ranjit Daniels was born on June 5, 1959 in Nagercoil-a small hilltown in the southern Western Ghats. Encouraged by his parents, he pursued his interest in nature watching and drawing animals, especially birds. The many pets that he raised during his early years, that included amongst others frogs, were his greatest source of inspiration and learning. The graduation from hobby to profession took place many years later in 1989 after a short visit to Panama.
After being awarded a doctoral degree in 1990 by the Indian Institute
of Science for his study of birds of the Western Ghats, Ranjit Daniels pursued his post-doctoral research on amphibians. He moved to Chennai in 1992 and over the past decade has travelled in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats and the Great Nicobar Island studying amphibians and other lower vertebrates (fish and reptiles).
In Chennai, he has served as the Research Scientist at the Madras Crocodile Bank, as Honorary Secretary at the Chennai Snake Park and also as Principal Scientific Officer (Biodiversity and Biotechnology) and Chair (Biodiversity) at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation. He founded Care Earth in June 2000 and has since been serving as the Director of this young organisation that is dedicated to biodiversity research and training.
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