As many as 539 new species of plants and animals were discovered by scientists and taxonomists in the country in 2017, say publications from two major survey organisations: the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).
Released on Tuesday, World Environment Day, Animal Discoveries, 2017 from the ZSI lists 300 new species of fauna. Plant Discoveries, 2017 lists 239 new flora species.
Besides these discoveries, the biodiversity in the country recorded another 263 species with 174 new records of animals and 89 of plants found. The number of discoveries of sub-species and varieties takes the number of floral discoveries to 352.
Among the animal discoveries are 241 invertebrates. The number of vertebrates discovered includes 27 species of fish, 18 of amphibians and 12 of reptiles.
The highlight of the animal discoveries was a new fossil reptilian species — Shringasaurus indicus — recorded by scientists of the Kolkata-based Indian Statistical Institute. The important discoveries include a frog species, Nasikabatrachus bhupathi , with snout-shaped nose like a pig and named after Indian herpetologist S. Bhupathy; and a snake, Rhabdops aquaticus , discovered from the northern Western Ghats and deriving its name from the Latin word for water in reference to its presence in freshwater bodies.
With these discoveries, the number of animal species in India stands at 1,01,167, which is 6.45% of the faunal species found in the world. The number of plant species has increased to 49,003, which is 11.4 % of the world flora.
Among the 352 species and sub-species and varieties of plants, there are 148 flowering plants, 108 macro and micro fungi, four pteridophytes, six bryophytes, 17 lichens, 39 algae and 30 microbes.
In 2017, scientists discovered some 20 species of balsams and three species each of wild musa (banana) and jamun.
The BSI publication lists 18 species of grasses discovered under the family Poaceae and two gymnosperms particularly cycads. In terms of names for the discoveries, Tupistra khasiana , named after the Khasi tribe of the Khasi hills, and Drypetes kalami , named after former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, stand out.
Riches among hills
The Western Ghats and the Himalayas are home to most of the plant and animal discoveries. While the Western Ghats contributed 19% of the discoveries of species and sub-species of plants, the number was 37% in terms of animal discoveries.
The Himalayas contributed to 35% of all plant discoveries (18% of the plant discoveries from the western Himalayas and 17% from the eastern Himalayas). In terms of animal discoveries, over 18% of the new species were discovered from both the eastern and western Himalayas.
Among the States, Kerala recorded the highest number of discoveries — 66 species, sub-species and varieties of plants and 52 species of animals. Tamil Nadu recorded 31 new species of animals and 24 species, sub-species and varieties of plants.
West Bengal, which has both Himalayan and coastal ecosystems, recorded 27 discoveries in categories of plants and 45 discoveries of animal species.