The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) revealed that India learned of 596 species of new flora and fauna last year. Well, it seems the count is ever-increasing.
In the past few months, we’ve received some exciting updates in the realm of wildlife. Despite urbanisation, forest encroachment and a rise in human-wildlife conflict, nature seems to be pushing through with newer jewels in the ecosystem. Here’s a quick snapshot of the latest entrants in the world of fauna:
India’s tortoise species count went up to 29 after the Impressed tortoise (Manouria impressa) was found in the hilly forests of Yazali in Arunachal Pradesh. The reptile, marked ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN, is usually spotted in mountainous forests across Southeast Asia, and this is the first time it has been found in the wild in India.
A new species of vine snake (Proahaetulla antique) was discovered in the Agasthyamalai hills of the southern Western Ghats, a biodiversity hub. Interestingly, it belongs to an ancient lineage going back 26 million years, making it one of the oldest persisting single-species lineages of snakes in the Western Ghats. The discovery was by researchers led by the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.
In a homegrown messiah moment, ZSI scientists discovered seven species of semi-aquatic insects that can walk or run on water. Belonging to the Mesovelia genus, they range from 1.5 mm to 4.5 mm in size, and have hydrophobic bristles on their legs to avoid sinking. The insects are ‘pale green with silver-white wings with black veins’, and remove organic waste from the freshwater bodies they inhabit. The discoveries were across Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu and the Andaman islands.
A new species of burrowing frog has been discovered in the Chotanagpur Plateau region. The Magadha Burrowing Frog (Sphaerotheca magadha) has been named after the ancient kingdom of Magadha from southern Bihar, and was found inhabiting farm fields. In the history of Indian zoology, it’s the first ever frog discovery in Jharkhand and Bihar. It’s also proof that nondescript agricultural ecosystems are worthy of further exploration.
The amphibian ambitions continue: a new, monotypic genus of Indian frogs was discovered by phD student Sonali Garg and her supervisor SD Biju in the Western Ghats. Named Franky’s narrow-mouthed frog (Mysticellus franki) the genus was discovered after three years of exploration. It is part of the narrow-mouthed frog family called Microhylidae. The frog only emerges during the first two days of monsoon showers, and congregates in puddles, which is how it was first discovered. "This frog went unnoticed until now probably because it appears for less than four days for breeding activities and lives a secretive lifestyle for the rest of the year,” says Garg.
Further discoveries include a new moray eel in the Bay of Bengal near Odisha (christened as Gymnothorax odishi) that brings up India’s count of brown, short unpatterned eels to two; a new catfish species (Glyptothorax gopii) detected in Mizoram’s Kaladan river; and a new ‘log-sucker’ fish (Garra simbalbaraensis) that was found swimming in the Simbalbara river ofHimachal Pradesh. Both are freshwater specimens, and were found in remote areas.