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Scientists discover rare insect, name it after chief

tech-reviews Updated: Nov 03, 2009 01:44 IST
Satyen Mohapatra
Satyen Mohapatra
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have named a new insect they discovered after their current director general, Mangla Rai.

The insect — a new sub species (genus) of the ‘mite’ variety of insect — has been called Mangalaus.

“We decided to name this genus of mite after the director general because of his abiding interest in insect bio systematics,” said NB Ramamurthy, National Coordinator of ICAR’s Network Project on Insect Biosystematics.

The mite was found in the fields inside ICAR’s Delhi campus at Pusa three months ago. “But before announcing it, we wanted to consult international experts to be sure it was indeed a new find,” said Ramamurthy. “Hence the delay.”

Mangalaus is too small to be seen by the naked eye, with an average length of 200 microns (one micron is one-thousandth of a millimeter). It feeds on leaves, especially those of the Indian cherry tree, locally called ‘lasora’.

It secretes a hormone that affects the lasora, leading to abnormal growth of some leaf tissues. “We haven’t yet called Mangalaus a pest, but we may as we go along,” said Ramamurthy.

“Mangalaus is very different from most other mites,” he added. “Most mites are eight-legged, but this one has only two legs. It also has two eyes, which mites usually lack.”