Environment

Pir Panjal ant honours Punjab scientist

A treasure: Himender Bharti and his students have discovered 77 new ant species from India.

A treasure: Himender Bharti and his students have discovered 77 new ant species from India.  

Himender Bharti has worked on ants for 20 years and developed a repository for easy reference

It was supposed to be work as usual when a manuscript describing a new ant species, discovered from the southern foothills of Pir Panjal Himalayas in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, was sent to him for peer-review before publication.

But Dr. Himender Bharti from the Ant Systematics and Molecular Biology Lab in the Department of Zoology and Environmental Sciences, Punjabi University, Patiala, was in for a pleasant surprise to find that the new species was called Leptogenys bhartii.

“This species is named in honour of Dr. Bharti for his outstanding contribution to the Indian ants,” said Dr. Shahid Ali Akbar from the Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture, Srinagar and senior author of the paper published in the Biodiversity Data Journal on choosing the name for the 11-12 mm ant that he and his team discovered.

The new ant species was identified based on morphology. The scientists looked for specific characters that are conserved in the genus in question to ascertain that it is a new species.

22 from Western Ghats

Dr. Bharti and his students have discovered 77 new ant species from India, of which 22 are from the Western Ghats. In addition, he has discovered four new species from Southeast Asia — Vietnam, Malaysia and China.

“He has been working on ants for about 20 years and has developed an ant repository — Punjabi University Ant Collection — where holotypes of all the new species he and his students described and reference collection of over 1000 ant species from India and other countries are kept,” says Dr. Akbar.

In addition, the repository also has 20 paratypes (specimens other than holotypes) of ant species described from other parts of the world that have been donated by the original discoverers for objective identification of new species.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 9:54:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/pir-panjal-ant-honours-punjab-scientist/article24421401.ece

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