In a rare scientific feat being described as the ‘discovery of the year’, a team of scientists led by a Delhi University professor, S D Biju, has found a new family of legless amphibians commonly known as caecilians. The new family has been named Chikilidae, consisting of tailless burrowing caecilians which evolved separately from other caecilian species more than 140 million years ago.

Its closest relatives are found in Africa, which shows that it existed before the Indian subcontinent broke away from the African landmass.

The remarkable discovery, set to be published in the upcoming issue of Proceedings of Royal Society of London, came after massive soil-digging surveys in about 250 localities spread over five years in each Northeast Indian state. The work is the most extensive systematic programme of dedicated caecilian surveys ever attempted.