Moth found in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi districts after 127 years; photographed for first time

The species was first illustrated and described by an English entomologist in 1893

March 09, 2023 08:27 pm | Updated March 10, 2023 03:26 pm IST - TIRUNELVELI

Moth Mimeusemia ceylonica, which was rediscovered in Tirunelveli district in 2020 after 127 years by two researchers. Photo: Special Arrangement

Moth Mimeusemia ceylonica, which was rediscovered in Tirunelveli district in 2020 after 127 years by two researchers. Photo: Special Arrangement

Two researchers from Tamil Nadu have spotted a rare moth species for the first time in India in the buffer zone of Kalakkad–Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) after it was last sighted 127 years ago - at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka in 1893.

Interestingly, the researchers, Thalavaipandi Subbaiah of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) and Prashanth Prakhalathan of Tamil Nadu Wetland Mission, are the first in the world to photograph the moth species Mimeusemia ceylonica, as only an illustration of the insect existed previously. Recognising this feat, international peer-reviewed journal on animal science Species had published an article on their work in February this year.

Mimeusemia ceylonica is a moth species belonging to the subfamily Agaristinae and family Noctuidae. It was first illustrated and described by English entomologist George Hampson in 1893. The species was rediscovered during a moth survey conducted on October 11, 2020 at the Agasthyamalai Community-based Conservation Centre (ACCC) situated in the buffer zone of KMTR, Tirunelveli district by Mr. Thalavaipandi and Mr. Prashanth.

After spotting the moth in the same area on November 5, 2021, Mr. Thalavaipandi again sighted it at the Vallanaadu Blackbuck Sanctuary in Thoothukudi district on November 5, 2022.

“After the first record in Trincomalee, no one spotted the moth until we saw it in 2020 in India. There is deficient data about the history of this species. We could see only one moth on all these occasions and not as a pair and hence we did not try to do genitalia dissection to study it further,” said Mr. Thalavaipandi.

On the significance of the spotting of Mimeusemia ceylonica in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts, Mr. Thalavaipandi said it was “testimony to the rich biodiversity of this region”.

“We have recorded around 300 moth species in ATREE premises near the Manimuthar Dam alone and hence there should be numerous moth species around us. Governments should encourage studies on moths as there are very few studies on them in comparison to species such as butterflies,” he says.

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