India adds 641 new animal species, 339 new plant taxa in 2023

Kerala adds highest number of animal species; West Bengal records the most plant discoveries; Himalayan ibex proved to be distinct from Siberian ibex; new portal hosts exhaustive checklist of Indian fauna

Published - June 30, 2024 09:10 pm IST - KOLKATA

Union Minister for Environment Forest and Climate Change Bhupendra Yadav along with director Zoological Survey of India Dhriti Banerjee and Director Botanical Survey of India A.A. Mao during an event to release animal and plant discoveries 2023

Union Minister for Environment Forest and Climate Change Bhupendra Yadav along with director Zoological Survey of India Dhriti Banerjee and Director Botanical Survey of India A.A. Mao during an event to release animal and plant discoveries 2023

A new species of turmeric in Manipur and a new kind of bat in Karnataka are among the plant and animal species which were discovered in India in 2023, according to data released by Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav on Sunday.

These are among the 641 new species added to Indian fauna in 2023, including 442 entirely new species and 199 species which have been newly recorded in the country. India also added 339 taxa to its plant database, including 326 species, and 13 infraspecific taxa. Of these, 171 taxa are new to science and 168 taxa are new distributional records from India. A taxa can refer to a sub-species or variety of a plant species.

Among the new plant discoveries in 2023 were Curcuma kakchingense, a new species of turmeric found in Manipur’s Kakching, and Asystasia venui, a flowering plant discovered in the Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden at Howrah in West Bengal.

Significant animal discoveries include Capra himalayensis, which proves that the Himalayan Ibex, distributed in the trans-Himalayan ranges of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, is a distinct species from the Siberian Ibex. Miniopterus srinii, a new species of bent-winged bat was also found in the Kodagu district of Karnataka.

Kerala tops list

Most of the new animal discoveries were reported from southern India. Kerala topped the list, with 101 additions (74 completely new species, 27 new records), followed by West Bengal with 72 new species, and Tamil Nadu with 64.

The vast majority of these new discoveries among fauna have been recorded in the invertebrate category, which saw 564 new species in 2023; only 77 vertebrate species, of which the majority were fish species, were discovered in 2023.

“The trend of new discoveries in different groups remains same like previous years, with Insects dominating among invertebrates with 369 species, whereas Fishes with 47 species dominated among vertebrates followed by Reptiles, Amphibia, Mammals and least with Aves,” said Animal Discoveries 2023, an annual publication by the Zoological Survey of India, an premier institution dealing with animal taxonomy which completed 109 years on Sunday.

New wild plants

West Bengal recorded the highest number of new plant discoveries, with 52 new taxa, followed by Kerala and Uttarakhand. New discoveries include wild relatives of many potential horticultural, agricultural, medicinal, and ornamental plants such as begonias, impatiens or balsams, legumes, zingibers, and orchids, according to Plant Discoveries 2023, an annual publication by the Botanical Survey of India, a premier institution which has been working on plant taxonomy for about 120 years.

“This volume records 106 angiosperms, 2 Pteridophytes, 16 Bryophytes, 44 lichens, 111 fungi, 50 algae and 10 microbes. The hotspot regions such as Western Ghats, and North Eastern Regions have contributed 14% of total discoveries,” the publication said.

Exhaustive checklist

Apart from these publications, the Environment Minister also rolled out the ‘Fauna of India Checklist Portal’, a first of its kind. It comprises 121 checklists of all known taxa, covering 36 phyla, and providing information on all the 1,04,561 animal species distributed across India. Endemic, threatened, and scheduled species have also been included in the list.

Citing research showing that specific trees growing in specific areas is not accidental as they interact with their environment through specialised characteristics, Mr. Yadav emphasised the importance of conserving not just threatened species, but also bio-geographic zones across the country.

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