New dragonfly species discovered in Wayanad

New dragonfly species discovered in Wayanad

A new dragonfly species has been discovered in the verdant landscapes of Wayanad. Christened Red-rumped Hawklet, the dragonfly has been given the scientific nomenclature Epithemis wayanadensis, to mark the lush and biodiverse Wayanad plateau nestled in the Western Ghats.

The discovery was a collaborative effort led by Vivek Chandran and Subin K. Jose, researchers of the Environmental Science department at Christ College, Irinjalakuda; David Raju, a seasoned naturalist and wildlife photographer; and Zeeshan Mirza, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Germany.

Route to discovery

Mr. Chandran said this significant breakthrough transpired during an ongoing investigation into the odonates of Kerala. The team was collecting specimens from a population that bore a striking resemblance to Epithemis mariae, commonly known as the Ruby-tailed Hawklet, a dragonfly species that is native and exclusive to the Western Ghats.

Mr. Chandran said E. mariae is characterised by its diminutive size, with the male displaying hues of blackish brown and red and the female boasting golden yellow and black hues. E. mariae typically congregates in small colonies and its presence is strictly seasonal, limited to the southwest monsoon period. It primarily inhabits marshes and pools at the base of forested hills.

In stark contrast, the newly discovered dragonfly species was found amidst the foliage of shrubs flourishing along a shaded streamside marsh near Wayanad’s forested terrain, as well as parts of the Nilgiri Coorg landscapes within the Western Ghats.

Distinct features

This newfound species is distinguished by its darker pigmentation, a restricted red coloration on the abdomen, and the absence of the yellow antehumeral stripe, Mr. Chandran said.

Upon a year-long study, the researchers ascertained that this dragonfly species is profoundly seasonal, taking to the skies exclusively during the month of October. By early November, it vanishes from sight, spending the remainder of the year in the aquatic larval stage, he added.

DNA analysis

To validate their discovery, the team conducted DNA analysis, a critical step in confirming the species. Mr. Chandran said typically, a two percent genetic variance indicates the presence of a new species. In this case, an astonishing 12% genetic difference was observed.

This marks the first instance of an Indian dragonfly being documented with genetic evidence substantiating morphological distinctions, he said. Furthermore, this discovery hints at the possibility of other species awaiting revelation within this landscape, he added.

The paper detailing the discovery of the new dragonfly was published in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal, the Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity by Elsevier Group. 

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