Kerala

New termite species discovered

A new termite species, Glyptotermes Chiraharitae, has been discovered at Kakkayam in the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary.

The species are named ‘Chiraharitae’, after the tropical evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, where the termite was spotted. The flying adults of this species are approximately 10 mm long, while the soldiers are around 9.5 mm long.

Amina Poovoli and K. Rajmohana, Senior Scientists, Zoological Survey of India, who discovered the species, said winged adults, soldiers, and immature nymphs termed ‘pseudergates’, which could develop into winged adults, were spotted in a termite colony at Kakkayam. The research paper describing the new species was published last week in Zoosystema, the journal of Natural History Museum, Paris.

They said termites were of three types — dry wood, damp wood, and subterranean. The new species are of the damp wood category, and they infest parts of woods with high moisture content, the decaying or rotting areas in particular. They are exclusively wood dwelling and do not require any contact with soil.

Its relatives are known to attack mango, sal, banyan trees, Rhododendron, Artocarpus, silver oak, and jamun trees. There are reports that its related species are serious pests of tea bushes in Sri Lanka and southeast Asia.

Not a multifarious speciose

Compared with other insect groups, termites are not a multifarious speciose. “We have only 285 species in India, with just 61 documented from Kerala, and here lies the importance of the new discovery,” they said. Earlier in 2013, the same authors had published the discovery of a new species of termite in the forests of Idukki.