Botanists spot new bryophyte species in Kerala

Bryocrumia malabarica discovered in Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary

May 01, 2021 07:43 pm | Updated May 02, 2021 03:38 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Bryocrumia malabarica

Bryocrumia malabarica

A new species of moss of the genus Bryocrumia has been named after the Malabar region of Kerala from where it was spotted.

Bryocrumia malabarica , discovered in the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary along the Western Ghats, is special, say the botanists responsible for its discovery. This tiny bryophyte is only the second species to be identified in the genus Bryocrumia which has for long thought to be monotypic - that is, represented by just one species.

The team of botanists which made the discovery was led by Manju C. Nair of the Zamorin’s Guruvayurappan College, Kozhikode; R. Prakashkumar, Director, Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram; Prajitha B. of the Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute for Plant Sciences, Kozhikode; and W.Z. Ma of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yunnan, China. Their findings have been published in the latest issue of the journal Acta Botanica Hungarica .

For years, the genus Bryocrumia was thought to include only one species - Bryocrumia vivicolor . Found on rocks in streams, B. vivicolor has been spotted in Congo and Uganda in Africa, North and South Carolina in the United States, China’s Yunnan, Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka, and Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala in India.

Bryocrumia malabarica was found on rocky patches along a stream in the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary. The plant, which is light green in colour, differs from Bryocrumia vivicolor in the structure of its leaves. The plant was first collected in 2014 as part of the PhD programme of Ms. Prajitha on the taxonomy of Bryophytes of the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary.

“Bryophytes are a group of plants that play significant roles in the ecosystem. They arrange the suitable microclimate in the forest ecosystem, and provide suitable microhabitats for many other organisms, especially small insects,” Dr. Prakashkumar said.

Bryocrumia malabarica is the 12th species of bryophytes newly described from Kerala in recent years, said Dr. Manju, who has been studying this unique plant group for the past two decades. “The present discovery indicates the potential of our habitats in holding new taxa, and the need for detailed documentation,” she said.

Dr. Ma of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, one of the co-authors of the paper, helped in confirming the plant as a distinct species, Dr. Manju said.

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