Are there still more? Discovering New Species

By: Staff Reporter
Discovery of new species have aided the understanding of future probabilities. It has been analysed that these newly discovered species are habitants of the few desolate forests that may be home to a diverse groups of medicinal and natural antidotes.
Ecology

It may be a wonder of sorts that India’s rich biodiversity periodically still manages to throw up new species of flora and fauna that was hitherto undiscovered, unreported, and unclassified. The species discoveries, perhaps stands testimonial to the alluring natural wealth of the country. The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) revealed on the World Environment Day on June 5, 2015 that a total number of 349 plants and animals have been discovered in the year 2014. Of these 173 are plant species and genera and 176 are animal species. Of the several discoveries we have brought forth four, to whet your appetite and drive you to ferret out discoveries in the still protected bastions of India.

Dancing Frogs

A great run for frog lovers—14 new species of ‘dancing frogs’ have been discovered by scientists in the Western Ghats last year. The striking haul pulled up the number of recognised Indian dancing frogs to 24 species. The spectacular discovery was a result of the unrelenting efforts of eminent amphibian biologist and wildlife conservationist Sathyabhama Das Biju and his team of young researchers. Fondly known as the ‘Frogman of India’, Biju has been scouring the Western Ghats for almost a decade in search of newer species of amphibians. The miniature amphibians earned their name from the peculiar side-kicks and leg stretching that the males display to attract mates. All of the tiny frogs, the largest of which measures just 35 millimetres, come from the genus Micrixalus, which is endemic to the region.

According to Biju, the team recognised the 14 new species leveraging both on external morphology and molecular evidences. “We used 138 tissue samples collected from 70 localities of the Western Ghats over the last 12 years for DNA barcoding. Our results of multiple mitochondrial gene (16S and COI) barcoding reveal unexpectedly high species level diversity in the genus Micrixalus,” he added. Speaking with the G’nY correspondent, he accentuated the fact that the diversity of several amphibian groups in the Western Ghats has been highly underestimated. “Considering the rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats, there is an urgent need to re-examine and document amphibian clusters and endemism of this region,” he said.

Mayfly

Recently, researchers from the University of Madras discovered a new species of mayfly belonging to the genus Labiobaetis, as part of a continued effort to explore the Ephemeroptera fauna of the streams of the south Western Ghats. According to the Journal of Insect Science, where the discovery research paper is published, the new species have been christened Labiobaetis soldani, in the honour of T Soldan for his substantial contribution to the understanding of the Ephemeroptera of palaearctic and oriental realms.“It is the first time that this genus has been discovered in the Indian peninsula,” said C Sevlakumar to the G’nY correspondent. “We first came across the specimen in July 2012. It took us three years to compare it to its 12 congeners and mark it as a new species.”

The insect was discovered in the larva state in a small perennial river called Gadana in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. They observed that the larvae, that grows up to 4-5 mm in length, displays distinct light brown coloured heads, and light yellow antennae. Moreover, the presence of a distolateral notch on the antennal scape and the absence of femoral villopore along with the pointed shape of the labial palp apex distinguish the species from its close relative L.pulchellus found in
Sri Lanka.

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Gecko

The Osmania University of Hyderabad came to prominence after a team of researchers discovered a new species of gecko lizard at the world heritage site of Hampi in Karnataka. The species, a day-time gecko endemic to warm climates, has been named ‘Cnemaspis Adii’ honouring the young herpetologist Aditya Srinivasulu who collected the first specimen of the gecko (holotype) along with Chelmala Srinivasulu. The research team, claimed that the worth of the discovery lies in the fact that this is probably the first time that any species of day-time geckos was found in the central regions of peninsular India between Eastern and Western Ghats. “Cnemaspis species have been so far known only in Eastern and Western Ghats and their out-spurs,” said Chelmala in a conversation with G’nY correspondent. “The only other species known from Bengaluru and its surroundings is the Mysore Day Gecko (Cnemaspis mysoreiensis). Our discovery points to the fact that the species belonging to this genus could be more diverse than presently known,” he added.

The striking feature of the new species is the presence of round pupils; unlike regular day geckos that have vertical pupils. The dorsal scales on the body of the Cnemaspis Adii are reportedly small, homogenous, granular and lightly keeled. The research team also revealed that,“the drier regions of the peninsular India could possibly hold more species than currently known.”

Catfish 

Tucked away in the easternmost corner of the country, Arunachal Pradesh is referred to as an ‘undiscovered gold mine’. A remote biodiversity hotspot pullulated with unfathomable varieties of flora and fauna, it has been under the radar of most researchers and wildlife enthusiasts of late. Recently, scientists from the Itanagar branch of ZSI discovered a new species of catfish in the Lower Subansiri district of the state. Discovered in the Pange River, located at an altitude of 1600 m, the fish was recognised as a Glyptosternine torrential catfish of the genus Creteuchiloglanis.

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The research team led by Bikramjit Sinha have named the medium sized catfish Creteuchiloglanis Arunachalensis. The catfish dwells inside flat boulders, mostly along the middle section of the hilly rivers where water currents are comparatively higher. They remain attached to the boulders with the help of enlarged pectoral and pelvic fins and scrub fine green algae on the substratum as its basic food.

In an interview with G’nY, Lapka Tamang, another member of the research team, revealed that the new species is a high altitude cold water fish and presently only found in the locality of its discovery. “But we expect its existence in other drainage systems mostly in the vicinity of Ziro valley. The exploration work in remote areas within Arunachal Pradesh have not yet been covered by ichthyologists/researchers mainly because of rugged terrain and unavailability of road communication,” Tamang added.

At a time when species populations are falling globally, every new discovery of it is overwhelming. Each organism fills a niche position within an ecosystem and hence, with every discovery we gain better understanding of our biodiversity. Economically, these species also are representative of the forests that are untouched by the ills of urbanisation and are probable reservoirs of medicinal and other life giving templates.

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