Journal of Threatened Taxa | www.threatenedtaxa.org | 26 August 2018 | 10(9): 12235–12246

 

 

Diversity and endemism of butterflies of montane forests of Eravikulam National Park in the Western Ghats, India

 

E.R. Sreekumar 1, S. Nikhil 2 , K.G. Ajay 3  & P.O. Nameer 4

 

1,2,3,4 Centre for Wildlife Studies, College of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University, KAU Main Campus, Thrissur, Kerala 680656, India

1 sreekumarcof@gmail.com, 2 nikx.suresh02@gmail.com, 3 ajeee98@gmail.com, 4 nameer.po@kau.in (corresponding author)

 

 

 

doi: https://doi.org/10.11609/jott.4201.10.9.12235-12246  |  ZooBank: urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:A8C9E500-277B-49E8-A32F-11011A921608

 

Editor: George Mathew, (Ex) Emeritus Scientist, KFRI, Peechi, India.            Date of publication: 26 August 2018 (online & print)

 

Manuscript details: Ms # 4201 | Received 19 April 2018 | Final received 29 June 2018 | Finally accepted 18 July 2018

 

Citation: Sreekumar, E.R., S. Nikhil, K.G. Ajay & P.O. Nameer (2018). Diversity and endemism of butterflies of montane forests of Eravikulam National Park in the Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 10(9): 12235–12246; https://doi.org/10.11609/jott.4201.10.9.12235-12246

 

Copyright: © Sreekumar et al. 2018. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.

 

Funding: Kerala Agricultural University.

 

Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.

 

Acknowledgements: We thank Dr. Saji, K. for helping us to confirm the identity of the butterfly species and Sevantharaj for the support in the field. We are grateful to Abha, M.K., Abhirami, M.J., Anjali, J., Arjun, R., Devika, V.S. and Syamili, M.S., for various support. We also express our gratitude to Wildlife Warden, Munnar Wildlife Division and Assistant Wildlife Warden, Eravikulam NP for the logistics support. Dean, College of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University is acknowledged  for encouragement and support. We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the Subject Editor for their critical comments and useful inputs.

 

 

 

Abstract: In a study on the diversity and abundance of butterflies of montane forests of Eravikulam National Park in the Western Ghats, southern India, 85 species of butterflies belonging to six families were recorded.  This include eight species of butterflies that are endemic to the Western Ghats and one Near-Threatened species according to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  The family Nymphalidae, the brush-footed butterflies, was the major group of butterflies seen in the montane forests of Eravikulam National Park.

 

Keywords: Biodiversity hotspot, conservation, Hesperiidae, IUCN, Lycaenidae, Nymphalidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Riodinidae.

 

 

 

The Western Ghats is one of the biodiversity hot spots of the world (Myers et al. 2000).  This region is rich in endemism including butterflies and has been of great interest for biogeography.  The natural habitats in the Western Ghats is under tremendous pressure from the biotic influences (Jha et al. 2000; Mittermeier et al. 1998).  Butterflies are suitable for biodiversity studies, because their taxonomy and geographic distribution are better understood compared to many other taxonomic groups (Pandhye et al. 2012).  Butterflies are also regarded as good indicators of habitat quality as many species exhibit habitat preferences and seasonality (Larsen 1988; Kunte 1997).  Butterflies are sensitive biota, which get severely affected by environmental variations and changes in forest structure (Pollard 1991).  India has around 1,501 species of butterflies, out of which 336 species have been reported from the Western Ghats (Kunte et al. 2018).  Of the 336 species of butterflies of the Western Ghats, 316 species have been reported from Kerala (Palot et al. 2012).

 

Although quite a few studies have been done on the butterflies of the Western Ghats (Gaonkar 1996; Kunte 2000, 2008; Kehimkar 2008; Padhye et al. 2012), very little is known about the butterflies of the montane habitats of the southern Western Ghats.  Some of the earlier documentation on butterfly fauna from the Western Ghats include—100 species from Silent Valley National Park (Mathew & Rahamathulla 1993), 124 species from Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary (Sudheendrakumar et al. 2000), 75 species from Siruvani Reserve Forests (Arun 2003), 73 species from Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary (Mathew et al. 2004), 74 species from Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary (Mathew et al. 2005), 24 species from Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (Ambrose & Raj 2005), 75 species from Anaikatty Reserve Forests (Eswaran & Pramod 2005), 53 species from Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary (Mathew et al. 2007), and 282 species from the Kerala part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (Mathew 2016).  A checklist of butterflies of Western Ghats reported 834 species of plants as larval host plants of 320 butterflies (Nitin et al. 2018).  In this paper we give an account of the butterfly fauna of the montane forests of Eravikulam National Park, based on a four-month long study done in 2014.

 

Study Area

Eravikulam National Park (ENP) (Fig. 1) is located between 10.08333–10.33333 0N & 77.00–77.16 0E in Idukki District of Kerala.  The ENP forms part of the Munnar Hills, a part of the High Ranges of Western Ghats, which has six protected areas, viz., Anamudi Shola National Park, Pampadum Shola National Park, Mathikettan Shola National Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary, and ENP; it is contiguous with the Palni Hills and Anamalai Hills.  The ENP has an extent of 97km2 and the terrain is undulating with grassland and shola, the stunted high altitude evergreen forests, as the dominant vegetation.

Climate: Eravikulam has a tropical montane climate.  The average annual rainfall is about 5,000–6,500 mm.  The area receives both south-west as well as north-east monsoons.  The mean monthly minimum temperature is 11.90C, while the mean monthly maximum temperature is 22.50C.  The altitude of ENP ranges from 1,800–2,695 m, typical of a montane landscape and the highest peak is Anamudi (2,695m).

Vegetation: The major plant communities found within ENP are grasslands, shrub lands, and forests.  The terrain above 2,000m is covered primarily by grasslands (~60%), about 25% by shola forests, 8% by southern sub-tropfical hill forest, and 7% by shrubs (Menon 2001).

 

Methods

The study was conducted from September 2014 to December 2014.  The whole of the study area was divided into nine blocks based on topography and drainage (Table 1) and five days each were spent on each of these blocks.  At each basecamp two to three hour long transects were walked in the morning from 10:00–13:00 hr.  No afternoon transects could be done because of the unfavourable weather conditions, such as mist, cloud and northeastern monsoon rains.  During these transect walks, the butterflies were identified to the species level and the number of individuals were counted.  Attempt was also made to photo-document every species of butterflies sighted.  The butterflies were identified using the field guides of Kunte (2000) and Kehimkar (2008), and for taxonomy and nomenclature, we followed Kunte et al. (2018).

The abundance of the butterflies was calculated using the following method, species observed 80–100 % of the survey days were categorized as very common (VC), 60–80 % as common (C), 40–60 % as occasional (O), 20–40 % as rare (R) and below 20% as very rare (VR) (after Aneesh et al. 2013).

 

Results

A total of 85 species of butterflies belonging to six families such as, Papilionidae (10 species), Pieridae (15), Nymphalidae (36), Riodinidae (1), Lycaenidae (9), and Hesperiidae (14) (Table 2) were identified from the montane habitat of ENP.  This included eight species that are endemic to the Western Ghats.  They are Sahyadri Birdwing Troides minos, Nilgiri Clouded Yellow Colias nilagiriensis, Red-disc Bushbrown Heteropsis oculus, Nilgiri Four-ring Ypthima chenui, Palni Four-ring Ypthima ypthimoides, Palni Fritillary Argynnis castetsi, Nilgiri Tiger Parantica nilgiriensis and Striped Hedge Hopper Baracus subditus.  The proportion between the endemic and non-endemic species of butterflies in the different basecamps are given in Fig 2.  The basecamps such as Meenthotty, Rajamala, Anamudi and Eravikulam-Kolukkan recorded the greatest proportion of the endemic butterflies at ENP, while the Lakkam Kudi basecamp recorded the greatest proportion of the non-endemic species of butterflies.  While the basecamps that recorded the greatest proportion of endemic butterflies were all within the core zone of the ENP, the Lakkam Kudi basecamp is very close to human habitation and the elevation is also the lowest.  The Palni Four-ring found to be the most abundant species among endemic species was found in ENP.

Highest species diversity was observed in Lakkam Kudi area (51 species), followed by Poovar-Kumarikkal (47), Eravikulam-Kolukkan (45), Vembanthanni (43), Thirumudi (41), Anamudi (37), Varattukulam (33), Rajamala (29) and Meenthotty (13) (Fig. 3).  The relative abundance of the butterflies was highest in the family Nymphalidae (57.6%), followed by Pieridae (25%) and Papilionidae (10.4%).  The other three butterfly families account for the remaining 7% of the butterflies of ENP (Fig. 4).

The only threatened species of butterfly recorded as per the IUCN category was the Nilgiri Tiger Parantica nilgiriensis.  It belonged to the Near Threatened category (Lepidoptera Specialist Group 1996).  The relative abundance study revealed that 27.05% of species of butterflies belonged to very rare (VR) followed by 28.24% of species that were rare (R) (Table 2).

This is the first ever documentation of the butterflies of a montane habitat in the Western Ghats, which highlights the significance of these habitats on the conservation of high altitude, endemic butterflies of the Western Ghats.

 

 

Table 1. Basecamp details of the study locations at Eravikulam National Park (modified after Praveen & Nameer 2015)

 

Camps

Altitude (m)

Habitats

Rajamala

1,750

Shola, grasslands, rocky out-crops and shrubs, adjacent to tea plantations

Meenthotty

1,950

Shola, grasslands, rocky out-crops, adjacent to tea plantations and tribal settlements

Anamudi

2,150

Shola, grasslands, adjacent to tea plantations

Lakkam Kudi

1,450

Shola, grasslands, adjacent to tea plantations, coffee plantation and tribal settlements

Thirumudi

1,625

Shola, grasslands, adjacent to tribal settlements

Varattukulam

2,100

Shola, grasslands, adjacent to degraded grasslands

Poovar - Kumarikkal

2,125

Shola, grasslands

Vembanthanni

2,125

Shola, grasslands

Eravikulam - Kolukkan

2,180

Shola, grasslands

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2. Checklist of butterflies of Eravikulam National Park

 

Common English name/Family

Scientific name

Species authority

Image number

Abundance

Family Papilionidae

 

 

 

 

Sahyadri Birdwing*

Troides minos 

Cramer, 1779

1

O

Common Rose

Pachliopta aristolochiae

Fabricius, 1775

2

VR

Crimson Rose

Pachliopta hector 

Linnaeus, 1758

3

O

Common Bluebottle

Graphium sarpedon

Linnaeus, 1758

4

VC

Tailed Jay

Graphium agamemnon

Linnaeus, 1758

5

R

Lime Swallowtail

Papilio demoleus

Linnaeus, 1758

6

O

Red Helen

Papilio helenus

Linnaeus, 1758

7

C

Common Mormon

Papilio polytes

Linnaeus, 1758

8

C

Blue Mormon

Papilio polymnestor

Cramer, 1775

9

C

Paris Peacock

Papilio paris

Linnaeus, 1758

10

O

Family Pieridae

 

 

 

 

Lemon Emigrant

Catopsilia pomona

Fabricius, 1775

11

C

Mottled Emigrant

Catopsilia pyranthe

Linnaeus, 1758

12

O

Spotless Grass Yellow

Eurema laeta

Boisduval, 1836

13

VC

One-spot Grass Yellow

Eurema andersoni

Moore, 1886

14

VR

Common Grass Yellow

Eurema hecabe

Linnaeus, 1758

15

O

Three-spot Grass Yellow

Eurema blanda

Boisduval, 1836

16

R

Nilgiri Clouded Yellow*

Colias nilagiriensis 

Felder & Felder, 1859

 

VR

Indian Jezebel

Delias eucharis 

Drury, 1773 

17

R

Asian Cabbage White

Pieris canidia

Linnaeus, 1768

18

VC

Common Gull

Cepora nerissa

Fabricius, 1775

19

R

Lesser Gull

Cepora nadina

Lucas, 1852 

 

VR

Pioneer

Belenois aurota

Fabricius, 1793

20

C

Common Albatross

Appias albina

Boisduval, 1836

21

C

Yellow Orange-tip

Ixias pyrene

Linnaeus, 1764

22

O

Great Orange-tip

Hebomoia glaucippe

Linnaeus, 1758

 

C

Family Nymphalidae

 

 

 

 

Common Evening Brown

Melanitis leda

Linnaeus, 1758 

23

VR

Common Treebrown

Lethe rohria

Fabricius, 1787

24

R

Tamil Bushbrown

Mycalesis subdita 

Moore, 1892 

25

R

Red-disc Bushbrown*

Telinga oculus

Marshall, 1880

26

VC

Common Four-ring

Ypthima huebneri 

Kirby, 1871

27

O

Common Five-ring

Ypthima baldus

Fabricius, 1775

28

C

Nilgiri Four-ring*

Ypthima chenu

Guérin-Méneville, 1843

29

R

Palni Four-ring*

Ypthima ypthimoides 

Moore, 1881

30

VC

Tawny Coster

Acraea terpsicore

Linnaeus, 1758

31

O

Rustic

Cupha erymanthis

Drury, 1773

32

R

Common Leopard

Phalanta phalantha

Drury, 1773

33

R

Palni Fritillary*

Argynnis castetsi 

Oberthür, 1891

34

R

Common Sailer

Neptis hylas

Linnaeus, 1758

35

O

Commander

Moduza procris

Cramer, 1777

36

VR

Clipper

Parthenos sylvia

Cramer, 1775

37

VR

Angled Castor

Ariadne ariadne

Linnaeus, 1763 

38

O

Common Castor

Ariadne merione

Cramer, 1777

 

VR

Map Butterfly

Cyrestis thyodamas

Doyère, 1840

39

R

Common Beak

Libythea lepita

Moore, 1857

40

O

Yellow Pansy

Junonia hierta

Fabricius, 1798

41

O

Lemon Pansy

Junonia lemonias

Linnaeus, 1758

42

R

Chocolate Pansy

Junonia iphita

Cramer, 1779

43

R

Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui 

Linnaeus, 1758

44

R

Indian Red Admiral

Vanessa indica

Herbst, 1794

45

VR

Blue Admiral

Kaniska canace

Linnaeus, 1763

46

R

Great Eggfly

Hypolimnas bolina

Linnaeus, 1758

47

O

Danaid Eggfly

Hypolimnas misippus 

Linnaeus, 1764   

48

VR

Glassy Tiger

Parantica aglea

Stoll, 1782

49

R

Nilgiri Tiger*

Parantica nilgiriensis 

Moore, 1877

50

VC

Blue Tiger

Tirumala limniace

Cramer, 1775

51

VC

Dark Blue Tiger

Tirumala septentrionis

Butler, 1874

52

VC

Plain Tiger

Danaus chrysippus

Linnaeus, 1758

53

R

Striped Tiger

Danaus genutia

Cramer 1779

54

R

Common Crow

Euploea core

Cramer, 1780

55

C

Double-branded Crow

Euploea sylvester

Fabricius, 1793

56

O

King Crow

Euploea klugii

Moore, 1857

57

O

Family Riodinidae

 

 

 

 

Double-banded Judy

Abisara bifasciata

Moore, 1877

58

VR

Family Lycaenidae

 

 

 

 

White Hedge Blue

Udara akasa

Horsfield, 1828

59

C

Common Hedge Blue

Acytolepis puspa

Horsfield, 1828

60

VR

Pale Grass Blue

Pseudozizeeria maha

Kollar, 1844

61

R

Tiny Grass Blue

Zizula hylax

Fabricius, 1775

62

VR

Oriental Grass Jewel

Freyeria putli 

Kollar, 1844

 

VR

Forget-me-not

Catochrysops strabo

Fabricius, 1793

63

R

Pea Blue

Lampides boeticus 

Linnaeus, 1767

64

C

Common Cerulean

Jamides celeno

Cramer, 1775

65

R

Common Lineblue

Prosotas nora

Felder, 1860

66

VR

Family Hesperiidae

 

 

 

 

Common Banded Awl

Hasora chromus

Cramer, 1780

67

VR

Common Awlking

Choaspes benjaminii

Guérin-Méneville, 1843

 

VR

Water Snow Flat

Tagiades litigiosa

Möschler, 1878

68

R

Common Yellow-breasted Flat

Gerosis bhagava

Moore, 1865

69

VR

Fulvous Pied Flat

Pseudocoladenia dan

Fabricius, 1787

 

VR

Dingy Scrub Hopper

Aeromachus dubius

Elwes & Edwards, 1897

70

C

Restricted Demon

Notocrypta curvifascia

Felder & Felder, 1862

71

VR

Striped Hedge Hopper*

Baracus subditus

Moore, [1884]

72

O

Giant Redeye

Gangara thyrsis

Fabricius, 1775

 

VR

Rounded Palm-redeye

Erionota torus 

Evans, 1941

73

VR

Tawny-spotted Grass Dart

Taractrocera ceramas

Hewitson, 1868

74

O

Dark Palm-Dart

Telicota bambusae

Moore, 1878

75

R

Oriental Variable Swift

Parnara bada

Moore, 1878

 

R

Blank Swift

Caltoris kumara

Moore, 1878

76

VR

 

 

 

 

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