New species of damselfly discovered from Western Ghats

The genus Protosticta Sels, 1885 consists of slender built damselflies commonly known as Reed- tails or Shadow-damsels.

Thrissur: A new species of Damselfly has been discovered and described from the Western Ghats of Peechi Wildlife Sanctuary in Thrissur, Kerala. The species is scientifically Protosticta anamalaica Sadasivan, Nair and Samuel, 2022 and has been named The Anamalai Reed-tail. This remarkable discovery has been made by Dr Kalesh Sadasivan, Vinayan P Nair and Dr Abraham Samuel, researchers of the Travancore Nature History Society, a research organization based in Thiruvananthapuram, with support from Peechi Wildlife Division led by Prabhu PM, Wildlife Warden, Mr. Anish Asst. Wildlife Warden, and Salish JM Wildlife Assistant. The species was first spotted during the A 4-day butterfly survey of the Peechi Wildlife Division led by the Kerala Forest Department and Travancore Nature History Society (TNHS) Thiruvananthapuram during 25-28 November 2021.

The genus Protosticta Sels, 1885 consists of slender built damselflies commonly known as Reed-tails or Shadow-damsels. They inhabit hill streams in tropical, subtropical, and temperate jungles of the Indian subcontinent and south-eastern Asia. In India, they are distributed in the Western Ghats and north-eastern region towards Myanmar. The genus was described from Sulawesi (formerly the Celbes) in Indonesia. The genus has 53 extant species distributed from Pakistan, through the Indian subcontinent to Indo-China and south-eastern Asian islands. There are 15 species of Protosticta in the Indian region and 12 of them inhabit the Western Ghats.

This tiny damsel was first seen at Ponmudi hills, in Peechi WLS of the Nelliampathies–Anamalais subunit, Munnar Landscape in November 2021. Later they also reported it from Mangulam, Malakkapara and Edamalakudi regions of Munnar. The species is endemic to the Anamalais and hence the common name. The is the second species of Protosticta being described by the TNHS researchers, the other species being the Ponmudi Reed-tail Protosticta ponmudiensis described in 2015, from Ponmudi Hills in Thiruvananthapuram.

With this publication we have at present a total of 209 species of odonates with 82 endemics from the Western Ghats. A total of 185 species including 71 Western Ghats endemics, belonging to 87 genera under two suborders and 14 families are recorded from the various landscapes of Kerala state. This includes 76 species of damselflies (30 genera in seven families) and 109 species dragonflies (57 genera in seven families).

‘The species P. anamalaica is an inhabitant of the first-order streams of mid-elevation forests of Anamalais in the Western Ghats. These species from seepages, streamlets, and hill streams are the most vulnerable in the wake of climate change. Thus a very significant indicator species that provides a lead time for action in case of an environmental emergency’ said Mr. Prabhu PM, Wildlife Warden Peechi Wildlife Sanctuary. Dr. Kalesh Sadasivan said that the discovery of a new species reiterates the fact that more systematic exploration of this biodiversity hotspot should be carried out in the southern Western Ghats, especially in the light of increasing anthropogenic influences and habitat transformations.

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