A rare dragonfly spotted in chance encounter

Megalogomphus Superbus Fraser   | Photo Credit: Ravindran Kamatchi

Last week, a photograph of a dragonfly in grass-green, yellow and reddish-brown colour and bottle-green eyes trended on odonate forums in India.

It is the first time this species, Megalogomphus superbus Fraser, has been caught on camera and naturalists Ravindran Kamatchi and S Gopala Krishnan achieved this feat during a birding outing at a farm near Coimbatore.

“It was a fantastic day of birding at the Kallar garden in Mettupalayam,” says Ravindran. “We saw the rarely spotted lyrical white-rumped shama, a resident bird of the Western Ghats locally called solaipaadi. Also a yellow-browed bulbul, lesser yellownape woodpecker and Tickell’s blue flycatcher. Later, we walked to a nearby stream. Gopala Krishnan alerted me when he saw an unusual dragonfly, much bigger in size than usual, perched on a shrub. We just went click, click, click.”

Later, when they posted it on the WhatsApp group ‘Odonates of the Western Ghats’, they learnt that it was indeed a thrillingly rare discovery. Scottish botanist Fraser F C, who worked on Odonates in India, described this dragonfly as the most beautiful species in the book, Fauna of British India.

“Fraser spotted it in 1931 and 1934 at the Boluvampatti forest range near Siruvani, Walayar (Kerala-Tamil Nadu border) and Kallar near Mettupalayam. The species distributed in South India is endemic to the Western Ghats. The dragonfly belongs to gomphidae family which has six dragonflies – two in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, one in Sri Lanka and three others in the North East ,” says Kalesh Sivadasan of Travancore Natural History Society. Kalesh has documented Odonates for over 20 years and has identified as many as 15 new species in Kerala.

Tricoloured Marsh Hawk

Tricoloured Marsh Hawk   | Photo Credit: Ravindran Kamatchi

The taxonomical descriptions of the dragonfly in the book matched with the photograph. “The species has not been spotted in a long time,” says Krishnan, who has been following Odonates for over five years. “We have 193 species of Odonates occurring in the Western Ghats. These are ecological indicators but are least studied in India. As aerial predators, they play a crucial role in pest control.”

‘Tis the season
  • The South West Monsoon is the best time to look out for dragonflies, especially till December.
  • In fresh water streams, you can often sight common species like stream rubies, Nilgiris torrent dart and the orange marsh dart. Species like ‘ditch’ jewel breed in contaminated water

Megalogomphus superbus Fraser is a narrowly distributed endemic species, says Kalesh. “You can see them only on the pockets along the Tamil Nadu- Kerala border. A photographic record will pave the way for further studies on its distribution, habitat and ecology. It is an aquatic water species that thrives in fresh water, and feeds on mosquitoes and insects that are harmful to humans.”

The sighting and photographing of this species is significant as it has happened after a gap of nearly nine decades. The best part? It is an indicator that the quality of water and air is still pollution-free in these areas.

Asiatic Blood-tail

Asiatic Blood-tail   | Photo Credit: Ravindran Kamatchi

During the birding trip, they also spotted the Common Hooktail (female), and photographed the most attractive dragonfly, the Asiatic Blood Tail, which appears in eye-catching colours, the blue and green Ground Skimmers, and the Tricolour Marsh Hawk cloaked in green, yellow and brown. and the colourful Stream Ruby and the Black-tipped Forest Glory.

Among the damselflies, the colourful Stream Ruby, the Black-tipped Forest Glory (with green body and black-tipped transparent wings) were seen. “Odonates are aquatic insects and can always be spotted along streams and other water bodies. All these species can be spotted along the Western Ghats. It shows that the ecosystem is intact. A healthy sign.” says Krishnan.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 6:27:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/a-rare-dragonfly-megalogomphus-superbus-fraser-endemic-to-the-western-ghats-has-been-photographed-for-the-first-time-ever/article31850576.ece

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