Tamil Nadu

Rare butterfly documented in the Nilgiris after more than a century

The Branded Royal (Tajuria melastigma)   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement



A rare butterfly, which had not been spotted in the Nilgiris for over 130 years, was documented along the Kotagiri slopes recently.

The Branded Royal (Tajuria melastigma), a species of lycaenid, was last recorded in the Nilgiris in 1888 by G.F. Hampson, and there is only one other record in Tamil Nadu, said Vinod Sriramulu, trustee of the Wynter-Blyth Association (WBA), which comprises enthusiasts and conservationists who have been working on documenting and protecting butterfly species in the region.

“The Branded Royal is very rarely seen in India, with only four or five records in existence – in the Nilgiris, Dindigul and two in Kerala and Karnataka,” said Mr. Sriramulu. “This is an extremely significant record, as there are very few recorded sightings in the public domain,” he added.

The reasons for its rarity could be many. “Each butterfly has a host plant, so one of the reasons that it’s not spotted often could be that the host plant it relies on could be rare,” said Mr. Sriramulu, who was quick to point out that the butterfly was also particularly hard to identify.

“The Branded Royal is also hard to identify as it could be mistaken to be a different species, as many Royals look strikingly similar,” he said.

The record of the butterfly along the Kotagiri slopes will help conservationists better understand this species, said Manoj Sethumadhavan, another trustee of the WBA. “Finding this butterfly, in a relatively pristine ecosystem with very few threats, could help us study this species in the future,” said Mr. Sethumadhavan.

One potential threat that was noticed by the WBA members who photographed the Branded Royal was the prevalence of invasive plants such as Lantana camara near where the butterfly was spotted. “We will have to keep an eye on this threat, but are hopeful as we don’t foresee a huge anthropogenic pressure in the region,” said Mr. Sriramulu.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 12:25:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/rare-butterfly-documented-in-the-nilgiris-after-more-than-a-century/article32714615.ece

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