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Frog to fungus, 544 species add to India’s diversity in 2019

Sphaerotheca magadha, a burrowing frog discovered in the farm fields of Jharkhand. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Cnemaspis anandani, a rock dwelling gecko endemic to the Western Ghats; Sphaerotheca magadha, a burrowing frog discovered in the farm fields of Jharkhand; Enoplotrupes (Enoplotrupes) tawangensis, a dung beetle from Tawang; Ginger Amomum nagamiense, a wild ginger variety discovered from the forest behind Kohina Zoo in Nagaland; and Pteris subiriana, a wild fern found not just in Kerala but also in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra — these are among the 544 reasons India has to cheer, with the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) on Friday releasing Animal Discoveries 2019 and Plant Discoveries 2019.

The publications were released by Babul Supriyo, Union Minister of State, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, at an event at the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden in Howrah, West Bengal.

Cnemaspis anandani, a rock dwelling gecko endemic to the Western Ghats. Photo: Special Arrangement

Cnemaspis anandani, a rock dwelling gecko endemic to the Western Ghats. Photo: Special Arrangement  

 

Animal Discoveries 2019 lists 368 faunal species as new to science, and 116 species as first records from India. “The publication provides details about 360 new species, four sub species and four fossil species, as well as 116 species recorded for the first time from India,” Kailash Chandra, Director, ZSI, said.

Among the new discoveries, 294 species are invertebrates and 74 are vertebrates. Insects outnumbered other groups in general and in vertebrates, fish diversity is high with 38 new species and five new records. Dr. Chandra said that with the new discoveries and new records, Indian faunal diversity stands at 1,02,161 species, which is equivalent to 6.52% of all the species across the globe. The Director added that, along with conventional taxonomy, the ZSI has introduced modern methods such as DNA barcoding, entire genome sequencing, and X-rays for the identification of new species.

Plant Discoveries 2019 lists 180 new plant species and 73 new records discovered from the country.

Pteris subiriana, a wild fern found not just in Kerala but also in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Photo: Special Arrangement

Pteris subiriana, a wild fern found not just in Kerala but also in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Photo: Special Arrangement  

 

New records in a country refer to animal or plant species discovered in other parts of the world and recorded for the first time in the country.

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“This volume of plant discoveries contains 134 seed plants; five fern and fern allies; six bryophytes; 18 lichen; 51 fungi; 23 algae; and 16 microbes. During 2019, vascular plants contributed to 55% of all new discoveries and new records, while non-vascular plants contributed to 45%,” A. A. Mao, Director, BSI, said.

Dr. Mao said that among the new discoveries this year, there are plants with horticultural value as well as those which can serve as alternative foods such as aroids, syzygium (wild jamun), impatiens, mushrooms and zingibers, among others.

The number of plant species found in India according to the BSI is 50,012, and accounts roughly for 12% of all flora species in the world.

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Both the ZSI and BSI have been releasing Animal Discoveries and Plant Discoveries since 2007, and this is the 13th publication in the series. Data analysis from the past decade reveals that a total of 2,444 species of faunal communities are newly described from India, while the number of plant species described in the same period is about 3,500.

Enoplotrupes (Enoplotrupes) tawangensis, a dung beetle from Tawang. Photo: Special Arrangement

Enoplotrupes (Enoplotrupes) tawangensis, a dung beetle from Tawang. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Most of the new discoveries were reported from biogeography hotspots in the country. Data provided by the BSI stated that 28% of all plant discoveries in 2018 were made from the Western Ghats during 2019; followed by the eastern Himalayas (21%); the east coast (11%); and eastern plains (10%). The west coast has contributed 7% of the total discoveries, while the western Himalayas have contributed 6% of the discoveries. “Maximum (flora) discoveries were made from the State of Kerala, followed by Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Arunachal Pradesh,” the BSI publication stated.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 5:55:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-added-544-new-species-in-2019/article32815814.ece

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