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Home / Pune News / Pune-based ZSI scientist claims discovery of new moth sub-species

Pune-based ZSI scientist claims discovery of new moth sub-species

The newly found moth is a sub-species has been named as Olepa Schleini Chandrai after the head scientist of ZSI, Dr Chandra.

pune Updated: Jun 29, 2020, 13:44 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Upon further studies, the discovery of the sub-species could add to the 11 kinds of species known so far in the Olepa genus.
Upon further studies, the discovery of the sub-species could add to the 11 kinds of species known so far in the Olepa genus.(Representative image)

A scientist of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has claimed to find the sub-species of a moth which was first discovered in Isreal in 2005. Upon further studies, the discovery of the sub-species could add to the 11 kinds of species known so far in the Olepa genus.

“The species of Olepa moth are important as the larvae of the moths feed on various economically important crops like cotton, castor, sunflower, sesame, maize, ivy gourd, brinjal, sweet potato, banana, among others. Most of the species are morphologically cryptic (difficult to identify) and complex which hinders the taxonomic documentation process in deciphering the actual species diversity of the genus Olepa,” said Dr Aparna Kalawate, Scientist D at ZSI, Pune, in a written statement.

The newly found moth is a sub-species has been named as Olepa Schleini Chandrai after the head scientist of ZSI, Dr Chandra.

“I started working on moths around five-six years ago. I had collected samples in 2016, 2017, and 2019. I got series of olepa specimen. One of my specimens from Nandurbar matched exactly with Olepa Schleini while the one collected from Palghar showed a slight variation. Therefore, we put it though mitochondrial DNA barcoding and found 0.6% difference,” said Dr Kalawate.

The first of the genus kind was discovered in 1980. However, the genus now has 11 different species - one of which was discovered in the Mediterranean coastal plain of Israel in 2005, according to the research paper about the discovery published in Journal of Threatened Taxa on June 26.

“In such phylogenetic studies, numbers are arbitrary. If there are some difference, it needs to be studied. In our case, we found two population and one showed difference of 0.6% from the earlier one. Further studies are needed to see if it can be elevated to a new species category,” Dr KP Dinesh, Scientist D, specialising in phylogenetics DNA barcoding, who was a part of the study along with Shital Pawara and A Sahbnam.

The geographical difference between India and Israel piqued the scientist’s interest as she found the Israel-based moth in Maharashtra.

Once the samples are collected, taxonomic studies are conducted on them. If the studies do not help in identification of the animals, DNA barcoding is conducted, according to the ZSI scientists.

“It is heartening to know about this discovery. Every discovery adds to the repertoire of the biodiversity and it’s well-known that the Western ghats are a mine of biodiversity. Generally, a taxonomy needs to be conducted to know the original source of the species or if the species is endemic, a relationship can be established. The more aware we become, the more equipped we will be to save them in-situ. Just the discovery is not enough, their behaviour, cycle, habits, and role in that particular niche also needs to be studied,” said Dr Kalpana Pai, head of Zoology department of Savitribai Phule Pune University, who is an independent expert and not part of the study.

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