NEW DISCOVERY: In addition to being the birth place of spices such as pepper and cardamom, the Western Ghats in India is also known as a proliferate biodiversity hotspot. While the forests in this tropical belt along the west coast of the country are home to many unique fauna and flora, new discoveries add to the list of species that thrive in this part of the world. The latest members being five new insect species recently discovered by a team of scientists lead by veteran entomologist Prof. T.C. Narendran.
The new species were discovered inside the holes of a fallen tree in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala during a routine exploration of the area that is well-known for its dense forests and picturesque landscape. Interestingly, the new species were described as the natural predators of the wood-boring beetle, which incidentally causes severe damage to trees in the tropical forests.
Three of these new insects have been named, as follows, after the area they were found in:
- Metapelma kokkaricum
- Metapelma periyaricum
- Calosota idukkiensis
While Kokkara is the name of the exact location inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve from where the scientists collected specimens of the new insects, Idukki is the name of the hilly district in the state of Kerala where the tiger reserve is located.
The fourth insect, Calosota iochroma, derives its name from the Greek words that refer to its characteristic metallic pinkish color. The fifth species, Tetrastichus demonaxi, gets its name from the wood-eating, host insect called Demonaxi decorus.
The scientific paper detailing the discovery was published in the December issue of the Samagra, the journal of Centre for Research in Indigenous Knowledge, Science & Culture (CRIKSC).
Sadly, Prof. Narendran passed away on the morning of 31st December, 2013 at the age of 69. An Emeritus Scientist at the Western Ghat Regional Centre of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) in Kozhikode, Kerala, he and his students have so far described over 1000 species of insects from the Western Ghats – almost 2 percent of the total insect fauna reported in India.
He had published about 300 research papers and 10 books on entomology. Many taxonomists honored him by naming numerous species after him. Most of the insects he discovered are natural predators of other insects, playing a vital role in the area’s tropical ecosystem. His contribution to enriching the knowledge on biodiversity of India, especially the insect world of the Western Ghats will always be remembered.
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Image courtesy Samagra journal