‘Yala Toilet Frog’ named after departing Tea Board chairman

Wednesday, 21 March 2018 02:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A team of Indian and Sri Lankan scientists led by Dr Sonali Garg of the University of Delhi has discovered that a frog commonly found in Sri Lanka’s dry zone in fact represents a new, previously-unrecognised species, which they have named Uperodon rohani. The scientists explain that “This species is named after Rohan Pethiyagoda, in recognition of his contribution to biodiversity studies in India and Sri Lanka, especially on frogs and fishes.”

The species was named in an 88-page monograph titled “An integrative taxonomic review of the South Asian microhylid genus Uperodon” published in the journal ‘Zootaxa’ on 23 February. The authors found that the nearest evolutionary relative of the species, which is endemic to Sri Lanka, is the Indian frog Uperodon variegatus. They characterise the new species by its unique genetic make-up and morphology, in addition to the distinctive croaking call made by males. The propensity of these frogs to call loudly in chorus after heavy rains have led the scientists to propose that its common name be ‘Rohan’s Monsoon Croaker.’

Speaking to Daily FT, Pethiyagoda – who is due to relinquish duties as chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board on 21 March – said he was delighted by the honour. “This is one of the two species of frogs most commonly seen in dry zone bathrooms during the rainy season,” he said. “In national parks such as Yala and Bundala, it has a reputation for scaring people of a nervous disposition when they’re seated on the potty.”

“My colleague, the large mammal ecologist Manori Gunawardena, who lives near Yala, emailed me immediately as she saw the monograph,” said Pethiyagoda. “‘It is a shower, sink and drain resident,’ she wrote. “A lurker in the toilet bowl, it chirps if the shower is on long enough; my water-saving indicator. Uperodon rohani is impervious to flushing and returns to elicit the most expletives [from human users of the toilet]. It is my measure of who gets a re-invite to my house.”

“I’m deeply gratified by having this frog named after me,” says Pethiyagoda. “And there’s an added bonus. Now at last, all the people I’ve annoyed in the past have a way of getting even with me next time they go to Yala. If they want to let me know what they think of me and there’s a frog in the toilet bowl, I’m sure their actions will speak louder than words. Or they can simply drop the matter.”