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New species of moss found

T. Nandakumar
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Characterised by long, drooping primary branches, ridged leaves

Researchers have named the new plant Symphysodontella madhusoodanii.
Researchers have named the new plant Symphysodontella madhusoodanii.

Botanists at the Zamorin’s Guruvayurappan College, Kozhikode, have reported a new species of bryophyte (moss) from the New Amarambalam Forests in Nilambur, strengthening the case for declaration of the biodiversity- rich region as a wildlife sanctuary.

The researchers, Manju C. Nair and K.P. Rajesh, have named the new plant Symphysodontella madhusoodanii, after their guide Prof. Madhusoodanan, former Head of the Department of Botany, University of Calicut, and now Emeritus Scientist at the Malabar Botanical Garden, Kozhikode.

The paper authored by Dr. Manju and Dr. Rajesh has been published in the recent issue of Phytokeys, an open access journal dedicated to biodiversity research.

The new species was found growing on the branches of trees in the upper reaches of the Amarambalam Forests. “It is unique in many features,” says Dr. Manju, a bryologist, also associated with the Malabar Botanical Garden, Kozhikode.

Earlier, the bryophyte genus Symphysodontella was represented in India with three species, mostly from the north-eastern part of the country. One species, S. involuta, was known to occur in the Western Ghats also.

S. madhusoodanii is characterised by long, drooping primary branches, short secondary branches and two costate (ridged) leaves. It is confined to the New Amarambalam Forests and the Mukuruti National Park across the border in Tamil Nadu, both of which harbour a fragile ecosystem, home to a unique assemblage of plants and animals. The New Amarambalam forests is also the home of the Cholanaikar tribe, a nomadic aboriginal group of few members.

The plant was collected by Dr. Rajesh during a Rapid Biodiversity Assessment survey in the New Amarambalam Reserve Forest area. The study was organised by the Malabar Natural History Society (MNHS) of Kozhikode for the Kerala Forest Department, under plans to designate the forest as a high value biodiversity area.

The survey supported by the Kerala Science, Technology Environment (KSCSTE), revealed the rich biodiversity of the area, and the need for better protection.

“There was a plan to designate the forests of New Amarambalam as a wildlife sanctuary. That proposal has failed to materialise due to various reasons. We strongly feel that this area deserves better conservation status, taking into account the rich biodiversity waiting to be discovered,” says Dr. Rajesh.


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