New species of damselfly discovered in Kerala’s Ponmudi hills

The discovery is significant, because for over 160 years, the genus Phylloneura was considered monotypic, with a single described species

February 16, 2024 07:02 pm | Updated 10:57 pm IST - KANNUR

Cliffside Bambootail (Phylloneura rupestris), which belongs to a group called bambootails, is named thus because it lays eggs in the moss beds in seasonal rills that flow over rock cliffs. Photo: Special Arrangement

Cliffside Bambootail (Phylloneura rupestris), which belongs to a group called bambootails, is named thus because it lays eggs in the moss beds in seasonal rillsthat flow over rock cliffs. Photo: Special Arrangement

A team of researchers have discovered a new species of damselfly at the Ponmudi hills in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala. The hills are a part of the Agasthyamalai landscape, at the southernmost tip of the Western Ghats. The Ponmudi hills are biodiversity-rich, and this is the third species of damselfly discovered from the region.

According to A. Vivek Chandran, a member of the research team, the new species, named Cliffside Bambootail (Phylloneura rupestris), belongs to a group called bambootails, so named because of their long abdomen that resembles bamboo stalks.

Just one species

The discovery is significant, because for over 160 years, the genus Phylloneura was considered monotypic, with a single described species, the Myristica Bambootail (Phylloneura westermanni). He said its populations are associated with myristica swamps, and hence is known by its common name Myristica Bambootail. To date, it has remained the sole described species of the genus Phylloneura and is considered near-threatened as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. He said it is endemic to the Western Ghats and has been recorded only in the area between the Nilgiri Hills and Sharavathi Valley, north of the Palghat Gap.

Cliffside Bambootail has been named thus because it lays eggs in the moss beds in seasonal rillsthat flow over rock cliffs. This behaviour is in contrast to that of Myristica Bambootail that lays its eggs on the surface roots of riparian trees.

Team members

The discovery has been made by a team consisting of Mr. Vivek Chandran, Subin K. Jose (both researchers of Environmental Science at Christ College, Irinjalakuda), Reji Chandran (Society for Odonate Studies), Suraj Palode (Shola Nature Society), and Pankaj Koparde (MIT World Peace University). The results of their study have been published in the International Journal of Odonatology.

According to the researchers, the discovery highlights the need for rigorous studies to understand the rich biodiversity of the southern Western Ghats.

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