New species of butterfly discovered in Western Ghats after 33 years

January 14, 2024 05:59 pm | Updated 07:34 pm IST - THENI

The ‘Blue Butterfly’ discovered in the Western Ghats

The ‘Blue Butterfly’ discovered in the Western Ghats

A new species of Silverline butterfly, Cigaritis meghamalaiensis, has been discovered in Megamalai division of Srivilliputtur Megamalai Tiger Reserve.

This marks the first discovery of a new butterfly species in the Western Ghats in 33 years.

Tamil Nadu Additional Chief Secretary of Environment and Forests Supriya Sahu said the newly identified species had been named after the region – Megamalai - meaning ‘cloud mountain,’ which reflected the sub-tropical evergreen sholas or cloud forests that served as its habitat.

Speaking to The Hindu on Sunday, C,P. Rajkumar of VANAM, an NGO based in Theni, said the common name for this species was ‘Cloud-forest Silverline.’ The researchers made the discovery during their recent explorations. The species had been formally described in the current issue of the journal ENTOMON,

“The discal and post-discal bands on the underside of the forewing of the adult butterfly is conjoined and lie parallel from their origin at the costa. This unique feature distinguishes the new species from all other Cigaritis occurring in peninsular India and Sri Lanka,” said lead researchers Kalesh Sadasivan, Ram Narayan and S. Ramasamy Kamaya of VANAM.

This recent discovery had increased the number of Cigaritis butterfly species from seven to eight and an unique feature in the lifecycle of the butterfly was that the caterpillars were reared by vicious ants called Crematogasterwroughtonii, a situation akin to a cattle pen, Mr. Rajkumar said.

The VANAM was previously credited with the discovery of a new species of gecko called Hemidactylus vanam from the same landscape in 2018. The discovery was made by the researchers with the support provided by Chief Wildlife Warden Srinivas Reddy, Deputy Director Anand and Field Director Padmawathe, he added.

With this discovery, the total number of butterflies in the Western Ghats went up to 337 species including 40 Western Ghats endemics, said Ms Sahu in her X (formerly Twitter) and commended the team of researchers for the discovery of the ‘Blue Butterfly’.

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