Rhacophorus lateralis is an endangered species of rhacophorid tree frog endemic to the Western Ghats in South India. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, intermittent freshwater marshes and plantations. After its original description in 1883 by George Albert Boulenger, the frog was rediscovered in 2000 by Daniel Bennett and team from University of Aberdeen expedition to the region Along with R malabaricus, it is one of the few anuran amphibians in India that constructs its nest above the ground using leaves.
The frog was described by Boulenger in 1883 based on a single specimen from "Malabar" (present-day Kerala) collected by Richard Henry Beddome. Several later surveys did not report the species until its rediscovery in 2000 in the course of an expedition to the Western Ghats by a team from University of Aberdeen. The rediscovery was based on two adult females and an unsexed metamorph specimens collected from Lakunda estate in Virajpet taluka in South Kodagu. The frog is slender with a short head and snout and a distinct canthus rostralis. The nostrils are nearer to the tip of the snout than to the eye. The eyes are large with the tympanum half the diameter of the eye and a distinct supratympanic fold. The fingers and toes have an enlarged disc possessing circummarginal grooves. The upper portion (dorsum) is smooth, the belly is granular and a characteristic dorsolateral yellow streak on either side of the upper body from the nostril to the groin is distinctive. Colour variations even within the same individual have been reported and have been attributed to stress. Repeated handling reduces colour change.
Green and brown colour morphs have been described. Individuals with green dorsa have the green colour interspersed with fine, sky-blue spots. The individuals with brown dorsa have darker brown spots; no demarcating blue line borders the yellow stripe from the eye to the groin.
The species has been reported from sholas in Eravikulam National Park and Kudremukh National Park, plantations in Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru in Karnataka and Wayanad in Kerala and adjoining subtropical evergreen forests in the southern Western Ghats. It is endemic to this region. It has often been reported in association with Rhacophorus malabaricus.
Habitat loss due to changing agricultural practices, use of pesticides, and logging of its natural forest habitat are major threats to this species.
- Biju, S.D., Dutta, S., Vasudevan, K., Srinivasulu, C. & Vijayakumar, S.P. 2004. Rhacophorus lateralis. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 23 July 2007
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- Goel, Anurag; M Goel. "Observations on Rhacophorus lateralis and R. malabaricus in northern Coorg". Frogleg, Newsletter of the Amphibian Network of South Asia and Amphibian Specialist Group South Asia 14: 8–10.