3 new damselfly species discovered in Western Ghats in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka
Researchers and nature conservationists have discovered three new odonate species of reedtail damselflies (Protosticta species) from across three states in the southern Western Ghats.
The new species include the blue-legged reedtail (Protosticta cyanofemora) from the wet, evergreen forests of Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary in Kollam, Kerala and Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. The second species – Myristica reedtail (Protosticta myristicaensis) was documented from the Myristica swamp at Kathalekan in Shivamogga, Karnataka, and the third species – Shola reedtail (Protosticta sholai) was identified from the Upper Manalar area of Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Theni, Tamil Nadu.
Similar to dragonflies, damselflies are small soft-bodied insects with a long and slender abdomen, two pairs of wings, three pairs of long legs, and very large eyes. They eat smaller insects or smaller damselflies. In this case, the distinguishing factors among these new species were bright blue legs and eyes for the blue-legged reedtail; very small size with distinct turquoise eye colour for the Myristica reedtail, and light yellow legs and yellow abdominal markings for the Shola reedtail. Among them, characteristic features such as their claspers and prothorax (part of their thorax) differed significantly.
The findings by Shantanu Joshi and Krusnamegh Kunte from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, KA Subramanian and R Babu from Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Chennai, and Dattarprasad Sawant from KEM Hospital, Mumbai, were published in the international taxonomic journal Zootaxa on Wednesday.
“The idea for this research started when I was conducting some surveys in northern Karnataka. At Myristicta swamp – a unique habitat endemic to the Western Ghats – I came across a distinctly unique damselfly. It was small in size and flying near tree roots,” said Joshi, adding that he confirmed that this was an undescribed species. “With my collaborators from ZSI, we found two more species of the same genus across different forest regions within the Western Ghats’s biodiversity hotspots.”
Prior to these discoveries, there were nine known reedtail damselfly species endemic to the Western Ghats. “Our findings have increased this number to 12. Five of these 12 species [42%] have been described within last five years, indicating high potential for odonate species discovery from this region, and also emphasises the need for protecting the overall Western Ghats biodiversity,” said Joshi.
“More research and molecular analysis are needed to study relationships of these species in the Western Ghats, with those from the Himalayan and Southeast Asian regions,” said Subramanian.
Western Ghats is a globally recognised biodiversity hot spot with over 193 species of dragonflies and damselflies of which 40% are endemic to the region.
The findings come at a time when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Union environment ministry to finally notify the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around 1.4 lakh-sqkm Western Ghats spanning across six states, which has been pending for six years, by December. Of the proposed 56,825 sqkm, all six states have proposed that over 6,000 sqkm should be further reduced from the final notification, an affidavit by the Union environment ministry submitted before NGT read.