On the occasion of completing a century of research and publication, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has compiled images and information about the nearly 1 lakh species of fauna in India which it has recorded in this time span, of which 4,668 are new to science, into a book called ‘100 years of ZSI,’ that union environment minister Prakash Javadekar is slated to release on July 1.
“This is the first time that all new discoveries from India have been put between two covers. Of the 4,668 new species reported from India, more than 100 are vertebrates (animals with backbone) and the rest are invertebrates (animals without backbone). To sum up, this reflects one of ZSI’s crucial contributions to science,” ZSI director Kailash Chandra told HT.
The ZSI, founded on July 1, 1916, is India’s premiere zoological institute and the designated repository for zoological specimens. However, the institution inherits the knowledge from the zoological studies of another century in India, preceding its foundation.
Among the new discoveries reported from India are the golden langurs and Namadapha flying squirrels – both from the Northeast India – as among the ‘most remarkable discoveries’. The golden langur, seen in parts of Assam-Bhutan border area, was recorded by ZSI in the 1950s, while the Namdapha flying squirrel, a critically endangered species, is found only in the Namdapha biosphere reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
Besides, scientists at the Western Ghat regional centre had rediscovered species that were believed to be extinct – the Malabar Civet and the small Travancore Flying Squirrel.
“Though ZSI scientists have reported more than four thousand species new to science, there are many other that still remain unreported and unrecorded. We are building up a nationwide network of taxonomy experts to discover species yet unknown to mankind,” Chandra told HT.
While nearly 13% of the new discoveries (638 species) have been reported from West Bengal, home to the ZSI headquarters and the place where zoological studies in India began more than 200 years ago, the Western Ghats regional centre in Calicut reported more than 250 species new to science. As many as 68 new species have been discovered in the desert region in western part of the country.
Among other biodiversity hotspots in the country, ZSI scientists at the regional centre in Shillong, Meghalaya, have reported 63 species new to science. The Arunachal Pradesh regional centre, on the other hand, has reported nine new species of fish. Scientists at the West Regional Centre in Pune described 83 species new to science.
TRACKING INDIA’S FAUNA FOR 100 YEARS
Founded: July 1, 1916
Regional Centres: 16
Species identified in India: 97,515
Species new to science: 4,668
Species new to science to be discovered in 2015:262
New species from West Bengal: 638
New species from Western Ghats: 250
New Species from the desert: 68
Specimens in repository: 45,00,000+
Species in repository: 60,000
Books published: 1,500
Scientific papers published: 10,045
Books in the library: 1, 00,000+
Oldest book: Index Omnivm Capitvm (1547)
Digital archive: 2, 45, 702 pages
Old and rare books: 700
Digitisation of old and rare books: 22,891 pages (ongoing)
DNA barcoding: 1,000 species (ongoing)