Andhra Pradesh

No protection to species that live underground, says expert

Andhracoioides Shabuddhin, a typical cave crustacean, discovered by Shabuddhin Shaik in Guthikonda Cave in Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh.

Andhracoioides Shabuddhin, a typical cave crustacean, discovered by Shabuddhin Shaik in Guthikonda Cave in Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh.  

‘Many facing threat due to indiscriminate sand mining’

Bathynellaceans are minute crustaceans (crab family) and they live in the porous spaces of sediments along the waterways. Not more than 0.5-mm long, they are barely visible to the naked eye. Only eight species of these crustacean in seven genera were known in India till the end of 20th century.

Regular surveys initiated in the country since 2000, especially in certain pockets of coastal deltaic belt of the rivers Krishna and Godavari in Andhra Pradesh and South Eastern India, have so far yielded 90 new crustacean taxa. Of these 74 new species have been formally described. They include 34 Copepoda, 31 Bathynellacea, 6 Amphipoda, 2 Isopoda and one Ostracoda species.

Acharya Nagarjuna University (ANU) scientist and authority on Indian Bathynellid species and bio-speleologist Shabuddin Shaik said that 13 of the 31 Bathynellid species were endangered by indiscriminate sand mining in the State.

Talking to The Hindu, he said that there were no laws or regulations to protect these new species, many of which were discovered by the Prof. Y. Ranga Reddy group working on hypogean fauna (that live in caves and tunnels) and the phreatic fauna (that live in groundwater aquifers, that is rock and soil saturated with water). The preservation of subterranean fauna was not being given due importance, he lamented.

One million species of flora and fauna are predicted to become extinct in the next few decades.

Mr. Shaik said that Prof. Ranga Reddy’s team listed several reaches in deltaic coastal belt of Andhra Pradesh as hotspots for these crusteaceans.

They listed places on the banks of Godavari Bank at Dowlaiswaram, Kapileshwarapuram, Ravulapalem and on the banks of Krishna River only at Jaggayyapeta as the hotspots for these minute crustaceans. Indiscriminate sand mining on the banks of Penna River at Pottepalem, Surayapalem, Jammipalem and Vamshadhara river at Purusottapuram, Narasannapeta and Madapam are also going to effect phreatic species, Mr. Shaik said. With increase in cave tourism and other cave-related activity like treasure hunting, caving (for recreation) the fragile environment of these hypogean ecosystems was deteriorating leading to the disappearance of the fauna which survived for millions of years, he said.

Cave protection

To begin with, surveys should be conducted by the Geology and other departments to locate and protect caves and to secure them from treasure hunters and cave vandals. The extremophile fauna that live in caves in the depths of earth were a great asset to mankind, Mr. Shaik said.

Cave conservation involving locals, scientific studies, training of guides and creating awareness among tourists were some of the basic measures. Law and regulations should be brought about to protect these cryptic ecosystems, Mr. Shaik said.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 7:07:17 PM |

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