(WILD) LIFE ON THE MOVE: SYNTHESIS OF NEW DISTRIBUTION RECORDS FROM INDIA PUBLISHED IN JoTT TILL DATE FOR THE YEAR 2017

India, being one of the 12 biologically megadiverse countries, is a storehouse of wildlife. Just to give a snapshot of India’s biodiversity, it hosts 92,873 species of animals (6.64% of the world’s species), and 29,015 species of plants (9.13% of the world’s species). It is also one of the world’s 12 Vavilovian centres of origin and diversification of crop plants, which are the regions of a high diversity of wild crop relatives representing the natural relatives of domesticated crop plants. At least 167 species of important agri-horticultural crops and 320 species of their wild relatives are said to have originated in India. This high level of species diversity could not have been possible without the country’s tremendous ecosystem diversity, which provides a variety of habitats. Moreover, a range of drivers like unchecked human population growth, habitat degradation and fragmentation, climate change, illegal harvesting of resources, pollution along with others, either alone or synergistically, have resulted in four biodiversity hotspots in the country: 1. The Himalaya, 2. Indo-Burma [northeastern India and Andaman Islands], 3. The Sunda Islands [Nicobar Islands], and 4. The Western Ghats and Sri Lanka. Now, a distributional shift of certain species, extension or contraction, is being observed in response to prolonged and intensified impact of these drivers. Also, many of the species were poorly studied in the past either due to lack of interest or funds. Now a renewed interest, relatively better funding and active biodiversity monitoring have shed some light on these and many other less studied species. This post brings you a synthesis of all the new distribution records from India published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa (JoTT) till date in the year 2017 (six issues from January to June).

THE STORY SO FAR

  • In total, 26 studies have reported new distribution records of 63 species from different parts of India. Of the reported 63 species, 50 are from the animal kingdom, and 13 are from the plant kingdom. Being poorly studied, many of them are yet to be evaluated for their conservation status.
  • Among the animal species only one, i.e. the Rusty-spotted Cat, is evaluated as Near Threatened by IUCN Red List and included in Schedule I list of Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972.
  • In the case of the plant species, 3 species endemic to the Western Ghats are considered rare and threatened (Narah et al. 2017, Josekutty et al. 2017), 5 are wild crop relatives (Pradheep et al. 2017), and 4 are rare species from the family Commelinaceae (Salamma et al. 2017).
  • Of all the biogeographic zones of India covered in these studies, the Western Ghats was the most studied and yielded the highest number of species with new distribution record (Awasthi et al. 2017, Fernholm et al. 2017, Josekutty et al. 2017, Lekshmi et al. 2017, Mukherjee et al. 2017, Raut et al. 2017, Salamma et al. 2017, Samson et al. 2017, Srinivasulu et al. 2017 Waghmare et al. 2017).
  • The studies recorded the butterfly Myanmarese Tiger-mimic Admiral Limenitis rileyi Tytler, 1940 (Roy 2017), a stink bug species Eocanthecona concinna Walker, 1867 (Waghmare et al. 2017), a shield bug species Neojurtina typica (Salini 2017), a wasp species Xenomerus orientalis Walker (Managanvi et al. 2017), Cyanotis vaga (family Commelinaceae) (Salamma et al. 2017), two species of hermit crabs namely, Clibanarius rhabdodactylus Forest, 1953 and Clibanarius rutilus Rahayu, 1999 (Kachhiya et al. 2017) and a mantis species Mantibara mantis Dodd (Veenakumari and Mohanraj 2017) for the first time in India.
  • The Fulvous Leaf-nosed Bat Hipposideros fulvus Gray, 1938 (Dookia et al. 2017) the Manipur Argus Callerebia suroia (a rare satyrid butterfly) (Irungbam et al. 2017), and the wild pig Sus scrofa cristatus (Ahmad et al. 2017) were resighted from the same location after a gap of 38, more than 100 and 30 years, respectively.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR CONSERVATION

These new distribution records are important for assessing the status and ecology of a species in the face of climate change, land use land cover change and other drivers. Such information is useful for delineating new areas significant for conservation and management of existing ones like in the case of the ‘Near Threatened’ Rusty-spotted Cat (Guptha et al. 2017, Nayak et al. 2017), thought to be extinct Fulvous Leaf-nosed Bat (Dookia et al. 2017), the rare Anomalous Nawab butterfly (Mehra et al. 2017), and the Ixora plant (Narah et al. 2017). This, however, is not possible without a systematic biodiversity inventorization, monitoring and assessment with equal efforts given all over the country. Also, except for Waghmare et al. (2017) who did phylogenetic analysis along with morphological analysis to identify the species, rest of them relied solely on morphological analysis of either a sample specimen or photographic sample owing to lack of resources and time for sampling. However, integrating morphology with genetics, wherever possible, could help in accurate identification especially in the case of cryptic species, which have similar morphological characteristics but differ genetically, or poorly studied species which appear similar to other species. It is also important to see the ecological implications of the new geographic distribution of the species and accordingly develop future conservation plans like in the case of the wild pig (Ahmad et al. 2017) and ascidians (Mondal et al. 2017) that are considered as potentially invasive species.

References:

  1. Ahmad, R., I. Suhail & Y.V. Bhatnagar (2017). first report of the presence of the Indian Wild Pig Sus scrofa cristatus from Kajinag Range, Kashmir, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(3): 10018–10020http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2713.9.3.10018-10020

  2. Aswathi, K. & P.M. Sureshan (2017). Additions to the scorpion fauna (Arachnida: Scorpiones) of Kerala, India, with an illustrated key to the genera. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(2): 9844–9850http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2039.9.2.9844-9850

  3. Dookia, S., G. Singh & R. Mishra (2017). Re-sighting record of Fulvous Leaf-nosed Bat Hipposideros fulvus Gray, 1838 (Mammalia: Chiroptera: Hipposideridae) from Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(1): 9764-9767; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2657.9.1.9764-9767

  4. Fernholm, B., A.B. Kumar & M. Noren (2017). First record of hagfish (Cyclostomata: Myxinidae) in Indian waters. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(6): 10365-10368; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2526.9.6.10365-10368

  5. Guptha, M.B. & M.E. Ramanujam (2017). A photographic record of the Rusty-spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae) in a forest plantation on the east coast of Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(5): 10242-10245; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3239.9.5.10242-10245

  6. Irungbam, J.S., H. Huidrom & B.S. Soibam (2017). A century later the Manipur Argus Callerebia suroia Tyler, 1914 (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Satyrinae) recorded in its type locality in Manipur, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(2): 9866–9869; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2931.9.2.9866-9869

  7. Josekutty, E.J., P. Biju & J. Augustine (2017). Notes on the extended distribution of two threatened species of Strobilanthes Blume (Acanthaceae) in Kerala, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(5): 10236-10239; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3186.9.5.10236-10239

  8. Kachhiya, P., J. Raval, P. Poriya & R. Kundu (2017). Diversity and new records of intertidal hermit crabs of the genus Clibanarius (Crustacea: Decapoda: Diogenidae) from Gujarat coast off the northern Arabian Sea, with two new records for the mainland Indian coastline. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(6): 10334-10339; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2268.9.6.10334-10339

  9. Lekshmi, R. (2017). A first record of the Broad-tail Royal Creon cleobis Godart, 1824 (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) and its host plant from Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve of the southern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(5): 10240–10241; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3231.9.5.10240-10241

  10. Managanvi, K., A.K. Karnatak & M.A. Khan (2017). Xenomerus orientalis Walker (Hymenoptera: Platygastridae): a new distribution record for India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(4): 10138–10140http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2005.9.4.10138-10140

  11. Mehra, D., J.S. Flora & V. Sharma (2017). A new locality record of the rare Anomalous Nawab Polyura agrarius (Swinhoe, 1887) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Charaxinae) from central India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(6): 10358-10360; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2972.9.6.10358-10360

  12. Mondal, J., C. Raghunathan & K. Venkataraman (2017). New records of Aplousobranch ascidians to Indian waters from Andaman Islands. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(2): 9874-9880; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.1876.9.2.9874-9880

  13. Mukherjee, T.K., G. Iyer & P. Chatterjee (2017). Twenty-three new records of mantodea (Insecta) from some states of India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(2): 9829-9839; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.1936.9.2.9829-9839

  14. Narah, D., N.A. Bhat & Y. Kumar (2017). Ixora polyantha Wight (Rubiaceae) a new record for northeastern India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(5): 10229-10232; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3131.9.5.10229-10232

  15. Naranji, M.K. & S. Kandula (2017). A new record of Gunther’s Waspfish Snyderina guentheri (Boulenger, 1889) (Scorpaeniformes: Tetrarogidae) from Visakhapatnam, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(4): 10130-10132; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2879.9.4.10130-10132

  16. Nayak, S., S. Shah & J. Borah (2017). First record of Rusty-spotted Cat Prionailurus rubiginosus (Mammalia: Carnivora: Felidae) from Ramgarh-Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary in semi-arid landscape of Rajasthan, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(1): 9761-9763; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3303.9.1.9761-9763

  17. Pradheep, K., R.S. Rathi, K.J. John, S.M. Sultan, B. Abraham, A. Pandey, E.R. Nayar, S.P. Ahlawat & R. Gupta (2017). New distribution records of some wild crop relatives from India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(5): 10223-10228; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2930.9.5.10223-10228

  18. Raut, G.A. & S.M. Gaikwad (2017). A new record of Tenodera fasciata (Olivier, 1792) (Insecta: Mantodea: Mantidae: Mantinae) for western India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(6): 10351-10354; http://dio.org/10.11609/jott.2908.9.6.10351-10354

  19. Roy, P. (2017). A record of Limenitis rileyi Tytler, 1940 (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae, Limenitidinae) from Arunachal Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(1): 9774-9776; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3070.9.1.9774-9776

  20. Salamma, S., M.C. Naik, M.A. Kumar, A. Srenah & B.R.P. Rao (2017). Four species of Commelinaceae, as additions to Andhra Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(6): 10340-10344; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3342.9.6.10340-10344

  21. Salini, S. (2017). First record of Neojurtina typica from India (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Pentatomidae). Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(4): 10133-10137; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2777.9.4.10133-10137

  22. Samson, A., P. Santhoshkumar, B. Ramakrishnan, S. Karthick & C. Gnaneswar (2017). New distribution record of Nagarjunasagar Racer Platyceps bholanathi (Reptilia: Squamata: Colubridae) in Sigur, Nilgiris landscape, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(3): 10014–10017http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3175.9.3.10014-10017

  23. Sarojinidevi, N. & R.R. Venkataraju (2017). Euphorbia royleana Boiss.,(Euphorbiaceae) a new record for the Eastern Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(5): 10233-10235; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2640.9.5.10233-10235

  24. Srinivasulu, B. & C. Srinivasulu (2017). A first record of three hitherto unreported species of bats from Kerala, India with a note on Myotis peytoni (Mammalia: Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae). Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(5): 10216-10222; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3324.9.5.10216-10222

  25. Veenakumari, K. & P. Mohanraj (2017). First report of Mantibaria mantis (Dodd) (Hymenoptera: Scelionidae: Scelioninae) from India and additional descriptors for the species. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 9(6), 10347-10350; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2936.9.6.10347-10350

  26. Waghmare, S.H. & S.M. Gaikwad (2017). First record of the predatory stinkbug Eocanthecona concinna (Walker, 1867) (Pentatomidae: Asopinae) from India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(2): 9870-9873; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3051.9.2.9870-9873

Northern Western Ghats – a research niche in the biodiversity hotspot

A biodiversity hotspot is defined as an area with a high level of endemic species occurring only there and nowhere else in the world; with a loss of over 70% of its original habitat; with sustained environmental and anthropogenic threats. The Western Ghats escarpment running parallel to the western coast of India’s peninsula is one among four of India’s biodiversity hotspots. While a considerable amount of research grants and conservation efforts have been expended in this hotspot, there is so much more to do. Researchers and conservationists agree that a thorough knowledge and a systematic data collection in the biodiversity hotspots is the key to highlighting environmental concerns and designing effective interventions. The Journal of Threatened Taxa (JoTT) has provided an open-access platform for biodiversity research papers and has compiled a special series of articles focused on the Western Ghats. In recent years, JoTT has been publishing quite a few papers on the northern Western Ghats —an obviously lesser-studied, yet a biogeographically significant portion of the hotspot—which has often been overlooked in favour of the southern Western Ghats, with more endemic species. Yet, the northern Western Ghats have been throwing up a fair few surprises for the researchers who have dedicated themselves to the region. This article is part 1 in the series that will focus on their discoveries and efforts.

The northern Western Ghats comprises of the western stretch of Maharashtra, ending just south of the Kutch peninsula of Gujarat. It is characterized by mixed escarpment forests and valleys, a dense network of east-flowing rivers, interspersed with laterite plateaux. It is very different from the southern Western Ghats of evergreen forests, with numerous west-flowing and east-flowing rivers and occasional basalt traps. The northern Western Ghats are influenced by the economic capital of Mumbai, and other major cities like Pune, Kolhapur, Nashik, and Surat, creating several anthropogenic pressures. The unique geography of biodiversity and development and the economic implications of conservation action make it imperative to study the region in better detail – and to find well-aligned strategies.

Studies focused on the ecosystem of the laterite outcrops, once thought to be barren wastelands, have revealed the presence of a rich floristic diversity and high species richness, whereas the forests have yielded a new sooty mold fungus, hinting at more botanical and fungal potential, if studied in depth. There have been numerous papers published on the freshwater fish of the northern Western Ghats, partly due to the unique river networks and partly due to the efforts of a few dedicated researchers. The ichthyological studies have yielded a better understanding of freshwater fish, river-wise checklists, the rediscovery of an endemic sisorid catfish long thought to be extinct, and a new species of stone loach; as also the underlying threats highlighting the diversity and the research potential of the northern Western Ghats riverine systems. Though the amphibians of the region are less studied than those in the south or central portions of the hotspot, there have been several new discoveries in the past 15 years, each bearing a scientific name from their study locations. Studies of amphibians include population variations and have also extended to certain forest patches, like in Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary. The arthropod studies have largely focused on Odonata, with new records of damselflies and dragonflies and their habitats. Also of great interest are the papers on a new scorpion species in the heart of Mumbai and a new spider species on the rocky outcrops, an indication that diverse habitats from overpopulated cities to sparsely vegetated plateaux can yield discoveries in the field of biodiversity and can help us wonder at what more surprises are in store. Other studies have focused on freshwater ostracods (crustaceans, in the less scientific parlance) from the historic forts of Maharashtra, avian collision assessments at a wind farm, among others. Comparing these research papers indicates a potential for more studies on flora, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Some research findings:

  • A new species of stone loach (Balitora laticauda) found in the Krishna River (Bhoite et al. 2012)
  • New records of dragonflies and damselflies from the Western Ghats of Maharashtra (Koparde et al. 2014)
  • A new sooty mold fungus (Sheathnema indicum) found in the Sawantwadi Taluka (Dubey & Moonnambeth 2014)
  • A new species of spider (Tylorida sataraensis) found in the rocky outcrops
  • The discovery of a new scorpion species from Mumbai (Lychas)
  • The rediscovery of the fish species, Glyptothorax poonaensis, after over 70 years after it was thought to be extinct

Beyond scientific inquiry, these papers provide baseline data, highlight the threats to the ecosystems, suggest management protocols and can provide a backbone to implementing effective conservation strategies. Often papers lend perspective on areas that have long been considered under-significant for biodiversity, identify areas for conservation and underline the need for environmental impact assessments for development projects.

Here are some concerns and management strategies detailed in the research papers on the northern Western Ghats (a full list of the papers with links can be found in the Bibliography below):

  • The Fungoid Frog Hylarana malabarica has been assessed as a Least Concern species due to its widespread distribution in India, yet research shows that it is a species complex, with a more restricted distribution of cryptic species, Hydrophylax bahuvistara – immediate conservation action may be required (Padhye et al. 2012, 2015).
  • Freshwater ostracod records from the rocky plateaux of the northern Western Ghats indicate that their numbers are underestimated and their diversity is still to be discovered. However, their seasonal habitats are under severe threat from anthropogenic activities and their conservation requires attention if we are not to lose out on as yet undocumented and unstudied micro- and macro-invertebrate diversity (Shinde et al. 2014).
  • High endemism and recent new species records imply that the rocky plateaux of the northern Western Ghats have high conservation significance, serve as water catchment areas, and feature in local rituals. Aparna Watve’s paper has detailed management suggestions for saving this diverse, lesser-studied habitat (Watve 2013).
  • The discovery of a new scorpion species from Mumbai highlights our lack of knowledge, which may be compounded if the habitat which is near a residential area continues to face its current threats of forest fires and forest clearing for agriculture, bootlegging and exotic plantations (Mirza & Sanap 2010).
  • Comparing studies conducted in the 1920s, 1930s, 1990 and in 2010, indicates a loss of 31% of odonates can be attributed to drastic land use changes in the Mula-Mutha river basins. Odonate population concentrations in urban green spaces with wetlands, highlight the need to preserve such biodiversity refugia in cities across India (Kulkarni & Subramanian 2013).
  • ‘Green Energy’ wind farms, like conventional sources, impact wildlife and the environment – if erected in locations like biodiversity hotspots, should undergo due strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) and environmental impact assessments (EIAs) (Pande et al. 2013).
  • The occurrence of 50% endemic anuran species (of which 32% are globally threatened) in the Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra, indicates that this is a key site for amphibians and conservation action to protect the same, are essential (Katwate et al. 2013).
  • The rediscovery of the fish species, Glyptothorax poonaensis after over 70 years, when it was thought to be extinct is newsworthy. Yet more so is the fact that the upstream stretches of the river that are a breeding ground for this species face severe siltation, pollution and a threat from introduced fish species – all of which could have adverse effects on the fish populations and their survival (Dahanukar et al. 2011).
  • The fish fauna of Indrayani River, Maharashtra, is economically significant and with the presence of several endemic species, there is an urgent need to prioritize conservation needs and action (Dahanukar et al. 2012).
  • Koyna River, with a rich fish diversity, is relatively less threatened by anthropogenic factors, with modest fishing pressure, tourism, pollution and alien fish species. The area could be demarcated as a refuge for conservation (Jadhav et al. 2011).
  • The Krishna River basin, near Wai, Maharashtra hosts a number of globally threatened fish species and site-based management plans could include monitoring backwater fishing activities around breeding seasons, monitoring water quality for the release of untreated and inorganic wastes, promoting environmentally friendly agricultural practices along the banks, and strictly regulating tourism related stressors (Kharat et al. 2012).
  • Raigad District’s globally threatened freshwater fish species are severely affected by anthropogenic factors and the introduction of exotic fish. Intensive monitoring to trace the impact of the former and conservation measures to protect the local diversity is essential (Katwate et al. 2012).

Bibliography

Bhoite, S., S. Jadhav & N. Dahanukar (2012). Balitora laticauda, a new species of stone loach (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Balitoridae) from Krishna River, northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 4(11): 3038–3049;  http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3129.3038-49

Dahanukar, N., M. Diwekar & M. Paingankar (2011). Rediscovery of the threatened Western Ghats endemic sisorid catfish Glyptothorax poonaensis (Teleostei: Siluriformes: Sisoridae). Journal of Threatened Taxa 3(7): 1885–1898; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2663.1885-98

Dahanukar, N., M. Paingankar, R.N. Raut& S.S. Kharat (2012). Fish fauna of Indrayani River, northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 4(1): 2310–2317; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2771.2310-7

Dubey, R. & N.A. Moonnambeth (2014). Sheathnema indicum gen. et sp. nov. a new sooty mold fungus from northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(12): 6549–6555; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3514.6549-55

Halali, S., D. Halali & P. Rangnekar (2015). Range extension of Microgomphus souteri Fraser, 1924 (Insecta: Odonata: Gomphidae) to northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(8): 7480–7483; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o4259.7480-3

Jadhav, B.V., S.S. Kharat, R.N. Raut, M. Paingankar & N. Dahanukar (2011). Freshwater fish fauna of Koyna River, northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 3(1): 1449-1455; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2613.1449-55

Jadhav, M. & R.M. Sharma (2013). Range extension of Malabar Tree Nymph Idea malabarica(Moore) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) to northern Western Ghats of Maharashtra and a review of distribution records. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(1): 3556–3558; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3267.949

Katwate, U., C. Katwate, R. Raghavan, M.S. Paingankar & N. Dahanukar (2014). Pethia lutea, a new species of barb (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) and new records of P. punctata from northern Western Ghats of India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(6): 5797–5818; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3929.5797-818

Katwate, U., D. Apte & R. Raut (2013). Diversity and distribution of anurans in Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary (PWS), northern Western Ghats of India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(2): 3589–3602; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3038.3589-602

Katwate, U., R. Raut & S. Advani (2012). An overview of fish fauna of Raigad District, northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 4(5): 2569–2577; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2760.2569-77

Keskar, A., P. Kumkar, M.S. Paingankar, A. Padhye & N. Dahanukar (2015). Length-weight and length-length relationships of seven loach species (Teleostei: Cypriniformes) from five localities in northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(15): 8205–8220; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/jott.2462.7.15.8025-8220

Kharat S.S., M. Paingankar & N. Dahanukar (2012). Freshwater fish fauna of Krishna River at Wai, northern Western Ghats, India Journal of Threatened Taxa 4(6): 2644–2652; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2796.2644-52

Kharat, S.S. & N. Dahanukar (2013). Population dynamics of the Hill Stream Loach Acanthocobitis mooreh (Sykes, 1839) (Cypriniformes: Nemacheilidae) from northern Western Ghats of India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(11): 4562–4568; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3301.4562-8

Koparde, P., P. Mhaske & A. Patwardhan (2014). New records of dragonflies and damselflies (Insecta: Odonata) from the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(5): 5744–5754; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3402.5744-54

Kulkarni, S. (2014). A new species of the genus Tylorida Simon, 1894 (Araneae: Tetragnathidae) from a rocky outcrop in the northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(3): 5558–5561; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3606.5558-61

Kulkarni, A.S. & K.A. Subramanian (2013). Habitat and seasonal distribution of Odonata (Insecta) of Mula and Mutha river basins, Maharashtra, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(7): 4084–4095; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3253.4084-95

Mirza, Z.A. & R.V. Sanap (2010). Description of a new species of scorpion of the genus Lychas C.L. Koch, 1845 (Scorpiones: Buthidae) from Maharashtra, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 2(4): 789-796; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2363.789-96

Padhye, A., A. Jadhav, M. Diwekar & N. Dahanukar (2012). Population variations in the Fungoid Frog Hylarana malabarica (Anura: Ranidae) from northern Western Ghats of India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 4(2): 2343–2352;  http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2863.2343-52

Padhye, A.D., A. Jadhav, N. Modak, P.O. Nameer & N. Dahanukar (2015). Hydrophylax bahuvistara, a new species of fungoid frog (Amphibia: Ranidae) from peninsular India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(11): 7744–7760; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o4252.7744-60

Pande, S., A. Padhye, P. Deshpande, A. Ponkshe, P. Pandit, A. Pawashe, S. Pednekar, R. Pandit & P. Deshpande (2013). Avian collision threat assessment at ‘Bhambarwadi Wind Farm Plateau’ in northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(1): 3504–3515; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3096.210

Pethe, J., A. Tillu & A. Watve (2015). Threat status assessment of Ceropegia anjanerica Malpure et al. (Magnoliopsida: Gentianales: Apocynaceae) from Anjaneri Hills, Nashik District, Maharashtra, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(3): 6965–6971; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3772.6965-71

Rahangdale, S.R. & S.R. Rahangdale (2014). Plant species composition on two rock outcrops from the northern Western Ghats, Maharashtra, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(4): 5593–5612; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3616.5593-612

Rajeshkumar, K.C. (2014). A reappraisal of the fungus genus Phalangispora with the rediscovery of P. bharathensis on leaf litter of Mangifera indica from the northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(9): 6278–6281; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3891.6278-81

Shinde, Y.S., R. Victor & K. Pai (2014). Freshwater ostracods (Crustacea: Ostracoda) of the plateaus of the northern Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(4): 5667–5670; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3610.5667-70

Watve, A. (2013). Status review of Rocky plateaus in the northern Western Ghats and Konkan region of Maharashtra, India with recommendations for conservation and management. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(5): 3935–3962; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o3372.3935-62

Decoding the wildlife crime scene: DNA barcoding to the rescue of the globally threatened Philippine Duck

An isolated cluster of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is a popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia with pretty beaches and welcoming people. But it is also a mega biodiversity hotspot. Despite being smaller than its more famous counterparts like Madagascar and the Amazon rainforest, it has a higher level of endemism. Approximately, 33 percent of its plants, 75 percent of its amphibians, 70 percent of its reptiles, and 44 percent of its birds are found nowhere in the world. Every year new species are discovered even after more than 75% of its original habitat has been lost due to the intensification of anthropogenic pressures.

The Philippine Duck, <em>Anas luzonica</em> Fraser, 1839, is the only dabbling duck species endemic to the Philippines. One can find it in both freshwater and saltwater habitats, including mangroves, open sea and watercourses inside forests. It feeds on fish, shrimps, insects, rice and young vegetation. The population has declined sharply in the last few decades due to overhunting and habitat destruction, mainly clearing of mangroves for shrimp farms, conversion of wetlands for aquaculture and pollution of wetlands due to pesticide-laden runoff from surrounding rice fields.

Photographs of stuffed specimens that came from a batch of 46 individuals confiscated from Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. DNA was extracted from tissue samples of these individuals. Photos by Ronniel Pedales

From 10,000-100,000 individuals in 1993 to fewer than 10,000 by 2002 and the number has dropped to fewer than 5,000 according to the current estimates. Considered as one of the most globally threatened Anatidae species, it is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN and is legally protected in five sites of the Philippines. Even after these conservation measures, this alarming trend is continuing, with local extinctions and near-disappearances reported at several significant sites. Morphological features can be confusing for its identification, especially when it is easy to traffic as domestic meat. Ardea Licuanan, Mariano Roy Duya, Perry Ong and Ian Fontanilla at the University of Philippines, Diliman were motivated by this challenge to generate DNA barcodes for the Philippine duck to assist in accurate and quick identification, which they published in the May 2017 issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa*.

But first, let us get familiar with the concept of DNA barcoding. Just like we barcode products in supermarkets, which can be scanned to get a particular product’s details instantly, similarly DNA barcoding facilitates species identification without relying on its morphological features. A DNA barcode is a standardised short DNA sequence that can be recovered and characterised for species identification while DNA barcoding is the technique for analysing it. We can say that DNA barcode is the taxonomic GPS. Just sequence a DNA barcode of an unidentified specimen and voila, it is identified without knowing anything about it beforehand. It is a rapid and cost-efficient technique that aids biodiversity inventory and makes information accessible to the scientific community, decision-makers and managers. It is especially very helpful in identifying species of conservation significance that are illegally hunted, highly valued in traditional medicine and unsustainably harvested. The most commonly used marker in animals is the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase 1 gene or CO1 sequence because nearly all organisms carry a version of it in their mitochondria. It is short enough to be sequenced quickly and economically, and long enough for detecting variations among species.

The team extracted CO1 sequences from adult Philippine Duck individuals that were confiscated by agents of the Philippine National Police and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources from Pantabangtan, Nueva Ecija, and came up with some interesting results. They successfully generated 46 CO1 DNA barcodes with three unique COI DNA sequences. The DNA barcode could differentiate the Philippine Duck from 25 other <em>Anas</em> species, but it failed to do so between hybridising species. Now, this is where it gets complicated. Though thought to be an unusual event in nature, hybridization is quite common among <em>Anas</em> species, i.e., different species can sometimes mate with each other and produce fertile offspring. It is known to cause decreased genetic divergence between two species such that genetically they are difficult to distinguish. They also assessed the population genetic structure of the samples and found a reduced genetic fitness, an indication of bottleneck event likely to happen. Will the Philippine Duck end up like the Brow-antlered Deer of India or locally called Sangai?

The Sangai is endemic to Keibul Lamjao National Park of Manipur. Even though it made an extraordinary comeback from the brink of extinction, the bottleneck has led to decreased genetic diversity among its individuals. Another more popular example from India is of the Asiatic Lion, found only in the Gir Forest National Park, Gujarat. If we compare DNA fingerprints of its individuals, they are as similar as identical twins in humans. Both of the species exist as a single isolated population in India and their alarmingly low levels of genetic diversity pose a high risk of extinction. It would be interesting to see how hybridization and declining genetic fitness of Philippine Duck will affect its survival and how reliable DNA barcoding will be for its conservation. As the samples were from just one locality, extensive sampling is required from all over the Philippines to see if the other populations show the similar decline in genetic fitness.

With DNA barcodes of the Philippine Duck now available, it is expected to enable timely identification of confiscated specimen and control its illegal trade. The results of the population genetic analysis point to the need for stricter and more effective conservation policies as the declining population trend shows that the present measures are not working. Special focus is required on community-based conservation as the human activities are the likely cause of the declining population of the duck. Hence, policies and conservation initiatives should take into account the interests of local communities and their dependence on the natural resources. Also, as responsible tourists and citizens of this planet, we can help by making eco-friendly and sustainable choices and informing others of the same.

Even though a majority of the scientific community has accepted DNA barcoding as a revolutionary new technique for species identification and inventory, there is also a growing opposition to it, especially among taxonomists. There are technical, political and ethical issues associated with it but DNA barcoding is here to stay. However, integration of DNA barcode with morphological data of an organism makes more sense for a reliable species identification than to consider either of them alone for the job, given both of them have their own limitations.

Licuanan, A.M., M.R.M. Duya, P.S. Ong & I.K.C. Fontanilla (2017). DNA barcoding, population genetics, and phylogenetics of the illegally hunted Philippine Duck Anas luzonica (Aves: Anseriformes: Anatidae). Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(5): 10141–10150; http://doi.org/10.11609/jott.2253.9.5.10141-10150

Welcome to Jottings!

Documentation, observations, scientific research, videography, communications are some of the sources of understanding the status of wildlife around the world.  The Journal of Threatened Taxa (JoTT) celebrates the completion of over 200 issues of uninterrupted (well … almost) monthly publication of scientific research since the first peer-reviewed pull out of Zoo’s Print Journal commenced in April 1999.

JoTT‘s scientific outputs are complimented by Zoo’s Print, which is the monthly science communication platform.  Yet, there is so much to share and with the growing interest in wildlife, and a growing readership in JoTT, we decided to have Jottings as a means of communicating what’s happening in JoTT as well as outside.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the School of Science, a group of 17-19-year-olds from Coimbatore who have taken on communicating science in their free time.  We at JoTT, ZOO, and WILD are proud to have them on board as volunteers.  Here’s their first communication of the recently newly described burrowing frog from western India.

ashchima Infographic 30Jun17