A field guide to the caecilians of the Western Ghats, India
Caecilians are legless amphibians quite characteristic of the Western Ghats. Fourteen out of 16 Indian species occur in the Western Ghats and all are endemic. The present paper deals with the biology of caecilians with reference to external morphology and general breeding behaviour. It consolidates information on 26 morphological parameters which are used in caecilian identification. Metric multidimensional scaling of 16 species of caecilians using pair-wise euclidian distances calculated on the basis of 11 important morphometric parameters clearly depicts morphological distances between different species and more so the genera, thereby validating the classification. A field guide has been developed for the identification of caecilians based on a survey made all over the Western Ghats, observation of holotypes at the Natural History Museum, London and review of the literature. The study also reveals the microhabitat requirements of the caecilians. Further, the localities of caecilian distribution in the Western Ghats are mapped. The taxonomy of Indian caecilians is discussed.