A rarely-seen species of butterfly, Discophora lepida , known commonly as the southern duffer, was recorded in the higher elevations of the Nilgiris, after more than three decades, by researchers recently.
The butterfly, endemic to the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, and was recorded in Coonoor. The record of the butterfly was published in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.
A. Samson, a wildlife biologist and one of the researchers who recorded the butterfly, said that the southern duffer was restricted to habitats in Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala in India. The first record of the butterfly in the Nilgiris was in 1888, followed by records in 1935, 1944 and 1987. “One of the more recent records was in Coimbatore during a survey period between 2013 and 2017, he said.
N. Moinudheen, another wildlife biologist, said that the species relies on bamboo species as their host plant. “The upper Nilgiris are not abundant in bamboo species, except for a few species like the Bambusa bambos, Dendrocalamus strictus and the Bambusa vulgaris . Further studies in areas where these bamboo grow could lead to more records of the species,” he said.
The Wynter-Blyth Association, whose members have been recording and studying butterfly species in the Nilgiris, said that the record of this butterfly at such high altitude was rare, and of keen interest. Manoj Sethumadhavan, a trustee of the Wynter-Blyth Assocation, said that in the recent past, other butterfly species usually recorded in lower altitudes are being seen much further up the Nilgiris slopes. “The reasons for this could be manifold. The host plants these species rely on could be establishing in some of these areas, while climate change could also be a contributing factor. Further studies need to be conducted to better understand why these species are being seen at higher altitudes,” he added.