New Species from India

Every time we read about nature and wildlife in India, it is almost always depress­ing news about how ele­phants are being tor­tured and how the tiger pop­u­la­tion is dwin­dling to extinc­tion. How­ever, there has been a lot of good news too, which is mostly ignored. It is extremely unusual for new bio­log­i­cal species to be dis­cov­ered, and the num­ber of new dis­cov­er­ies from India in recent years is sim­ply astound­ing. Here is a sam­pling of some of these treasures.

Species_PeacockTarantula

Pea­cock Blue Tarantula

Out­look reports: The spec­tac­u­lar Pea­cock Taran­tula was named on the basis of a sin­gle spec­i­men obtained at Gooty (Andhra Pradesh) rail­way station’s tim­ber yard in 1899. Nat­u­ral­ists doggedly searched the area for the spi­der. About 102 years later, some dis­tance from Gooty, they found the most beau­ti­ful spi­der in the world in a totally degraded for­est. Within five hours. While this re-discovery went totally unno­ticed in India, it set the net­work of Euro­pean and Amer­i­can ani­mal deal­ers buzzing. Within a year 12 spec­i­mens of the taran­tula were smug­gled out of the coun­try and the babies hit the pet trade the fol­low­ing year. In 2005 when I vis­ited an exotic pet expo in the United States each baby was worth US $350, down from $1,000 in 2003.

Species_Lizard

Andaman Lizard

Yet another effort­less dis­cov­ery hap­pened at the field sta­tion of the Andaman and Nico­bar Islands Envi­ron­men­tal Team in 2004. Lizard researcher Shreyas Krish­nan heard a splash in the rapidly grow­ing pond out­side. A lizard it was, and one that nei­ther he nor any of the numer­ous vis­it­ing her­petol­o­gists had ever seen before. Shreyas had dis­cov­ered not only a species, but a whole new genus.

Species_Lbrw

Large-Billed Reed Warbler

The Large-billed Reed-warbler is the world’s least known bird. A sin­gle bird was col­lected in the Sut­lej Val­ley, Himachal Pradesh, India, in 1867, but many had ques­tioned whether it indeed rep­re­sented a true species. A live spec­i­men was then trapped by Philip D. Round in March 2006 in Thai­land and it was con­firmed to be a new species.

This bird was sighted at Naren­dra­pur, 10 kms from Kolkata on 1st April 2007.

Species_Bugunliocichla

Bugun Lio­ci­chla

In Sep­tem­ber 2006, the National Geo­graphic reported that an ama­teur bird-watcher who was an astronomer, found the first new bird species to be dis­cov­ered in India in over 50 years.

No spec­i­men was taken, because “we thought the bird was just too rare for one to be killed,” said Ramana Athreya, the bird’s dis­cov­erer, in a statement.

Because the Bugun lio­ci­chla is so dis­tinc­tive and doesn’t appear to fear humans, experts say it must be extremely rare or it would have been dis­cov­ered before now.

Species_SmallestFrog

Small­est Indian Land Vertebrate

A few days back, Sci­ence Daily reported that India’s small­est land ver­te­brate, a 10-millimeter frog, has been dis­cov­ered from the West­ern Ghats of Ker­ala by Delhi Uni­ver­sity Sys­tem­at­ics Biol­o­gist, S D Biju and his colleagues.

Adult males are barely 10 mm in length. In this pho­to­graph, the frog is placed on an Indian 5 rupee coin. Biju gave a new name for the frog, Nyctiba­tra­chus min­imus.

Species_Frog

New Frog Family

In 2003, Biju had dis­cov­ered a bright pur­ple, bloated frog in the West­ern Ghats that was so unique it mer­ited the estab­lish­ment of not only a new species but also a new family.

This crea­ture evolved dur­ing the hey­day of the dinosaurs. Dubbed Nasik­a­ba­tra­chus sahya­dren­sis, it evolved about 130 mil­lion years ago, prior to the break up of India and the Sey­chelles around 65 mil­lion years ago.

Species_MacacaMonkey

Arunachal Macaque

As a well pop­u­lated coun­try of over a bil­lion peo­ple, India seems an unlikely place to dis­cover a new pri­mate species. The last time in the world that researchers spot­ted a new macaque was in the Mentawai islands of Indone­sia in 1903.

Hence the sur­prise dis­cov­ery of this new mon­key species made head­lines over the world.

Macaca Mun­zala, as it was named, grabbed the atten­tion of ecol­o­gists as it is one of the highest-dwelling pri­mates in the world.

Species_LimblessLizard

Limb­less Lizard

In May this year, an Indian zool­o­gist found a new species of limb­less lizard in a forested area in Orissa.

Pre­lim­i­nary sci­en­tific study reveals that the lizard belongs to the genus Sep­sophis,” said Sushil Kumar Dutta, who led a team of researchers from “Vasundhra,” a non-governmental orga­ni­za­tion, and the North Orissa University.

While mod­ern snakes and lizards are derived from a com­mon evo­lu­tion­ary ances­tor, they belong today to two entirely sep­a­rate groups of ani­mals, or orders.

Species_Snake

Indian Egg-Eating Snake

Out­look reports: Another her­peto­log­i­cal break­through was the redis­cov­ery of the Indian Egg-Eating Snake, a tooth­less spe­cial­ist. It was first found in Rang­pur (now in Bangladesh) in 1863. Sub­se­quently it dis­ap­peared alto­gether. In 2003, a spec­i­men of the long lost Indian Egg-Eater turned up in Maharashtra.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry for the Elachistodon west­er­manni, as it is called.

Species_Dinohead

New Dinosaur Species

Not a liv­ing species, but wor­thy of inclu­sion in this col­lec­tion, a new species of dinosaur was dis­cov­ered in 2003 along the Nar­mada river in Gujarat.

It has been named Rajasaurus nar­maden­sis, or the regal rep­tile from Nar­mada. The age of the bones meant that Rajasaurus was a con­tem­po­rary of Tyran­nosaurus rex and there­fore one of the last species to live before the dinosaurs were wiped out.

(Cred­its: This was inspired by the Out­look arti­cle ref­er­enced in the post, from which I decided to do fur­ther research. Pho­tographs are from the arti­cles linked to from the post)

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  • http://madhurisinha.wordpress.com mad­huris­inha

    WOW.
    There is so much of Indian Wildlife to dis­cover,
    so short for one life time.
    Thanks a lot Mahendra.

  • http://techntrek.wordpress.com/ Prax

    cool
    just like been to a for­est on a trek

  • http://mariacristina.wordpress.com/ mari­acristina

    The bloated, pur­ple frog reminds me of a Star Wars character.

    I didn’t know that sci­en­tists still take spec­i­mens by killing the ani­mal. At least the astronomer spared the bird.

    As for smug­gling the ani­mals out to be bred as pets.…how selfish!

    Your research would make a won­der­ful book for chil­dren, the kind adults like to look at too. I learned so much by read­ing sci­ence books to my boys when they were young. Won­der­ful arti­cle, Mahendra.

  • http://srisviews.blogspot.com Vora­cious Blog Reader

    Don’t show this post to She­faly. She will crush the spi­der. (ewwww…sends a chill down my spine).

    Vora­cious Blog Reader

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com mahen­drap

    Mad­huri: Thank you! I think India’s cul­tural diver­sity is only rivalled by its biodiversity! :-)

    Prax: Thank you! Glad you had a nice trek!

    Cristine: I don’t think sci­en­tists take spec­i­mens by killing — they do by cap­tur­ing. In this case, they did show unusual sen­si­tiv­ity in not cap­tur­ing the bird! Isn’t it wonderful?

    Smug­gling to keep as pets is a lesser evil — at least they care for their pets the best they can. Smug­gling body parts after slaugh­ter­ing ani­mals to make medieval med­i­cines whose authen­tic­ity is sus­pect is a greater evil — that that’s what’s hap­pen­ing to India’s tigers!

    Thank you for your kind words. I think writ­ing for chil­dren requires spe­cial skills! The nice part about it is that adults too can learn so much from the sci­ence books for chil­dren. These days, there are a lot of children’s sci­ence books com­ing out and I’m very happy about that.

    VBR: :-D Thanks for reading!

  • http://gentledude.blogspot.com Har­sha

    Thanks for the short les­son on zoology/anthropology :) Loved it!

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com mahen­drap

    Har­sha: It is not often that I have the plea­sure of you com­ment­ing on my blog, so I’m very happy! :-)

  • http://pr3rna.wordpress.com/ pr3rna

    like our her­itage, we don’t value our bio­di­ver­sity too.
    Excel­lent post.

  • http://rambodoc.wordpress.com ram­bodoc

    I must tell you that this post did not appeal to me all that much, but visu­ally was the most impres­sive ever in your blog.
    Do I sound like an art critic, leav­ing every­one con­fused as to whether he liked it or hated it?
    :-)

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com mahen­drap

    Pre­rna: Thank you.

    Ram­bodoc: It means the post was okay, but with a lot of inter­est­ing pho­tographs! :-)
    Your wit is once again leav­ing me speech­less, yes you do sound like an art critic! :-)

  • Pingback: The Secret of Life « Mariacristina()

  • http://jaysmoney.blogspot.com Jay Cam

    wow i love the taran­tula!
    it seems so out of this world!!

  • http://jaysmoney.blogspot.com Jay Cam

    care to trade links with my humor blog? check it out at http://jaysmoney.blogspot.com

  • http://oemar.wordpress.com/ oemar

    Nice pics… this was a very colour­ful post :)

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com mahen­drap

    Jay: Thanks for vis­it­ing! Yes the taran­tula is quite an exotic one…

    Oemar: Thank you!

  • http://wadias.in/site/arzan/blog arZan

    Hey

    thanks for bring­ing this to our notice.

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com mahen­drap

    Thank, arZan!

  • bendtherulz

    I would never asso­ciate Taran­tula with India — so to find that we also have such rare col­ored one.…great !! Loved all the pics and text.
    (con­cern is that some­time these news actu­ally gets into wrong hands much often — so are these dis­cov­er­ies good for the ani­mals.…?? — I hope peo­ple real­ize that find­ing such rare sights in for­est is where its enjoyed best and leave at that.…!)

    I hope you also con­tinue this series and may be do sequel — on Flora.

    *greedy* :-)

  • http://skeptic.skepticgeek.com mahen­drap

    Bendtherulz: Thanks so much! Isn’t the taran­tula amazing?!

    This news goes into the wrong hands any­ways, they have their own means and sup­plies of infor­ma­tion. It is we sim­ple­tons who are usu­ally unaware of such things! :-)

    Thanks for the encour­age­ment. Let me think about that sequel…

  • shame

    Your for men­tioned Pea­cock Taran­tula left india by per­mit only after did they cry foul.… They have since been bred so effi­ciently, there is no need for any more to be removed from the wild. It is a shame you do not men­tion that defor­esta­tion kills these won­der­full crea­tures daily by the hun­dreds. It is a shame that they will only have a home in cap­tiv­ity in the future, It is easy to crit­i­cise and exag­ger­ate the trade in taran­tu­las espe­cially the genus Peocilothera but habi­tat loss goes unmen­tioned as the trade in wood for fuel and fur­ni­ture, and land clear­ance, which in turn leads to ero­sion and loss of human life in land­slides dur­ing the mon­soon, seems not to matter.

    Don’t get me wrong I do not con­done smug­gling, just get the facts right first.…

  • http://apbiodiversity.ap.nic.in Bhaskar

    sir,
    thanks for the won­der­ful infor­ma­tion.
    Recently it was noticed that the Ger­man doc­tor Clark­Mark Baum­garten came to Visakha of A.P.and col­lected taran­tula with­out per­mis­sion.
    this was brought to light by local tvnews reporter.
    such cases of biopiracy are vio­la­tion of The bio­log­i­cal diver­sity act 2002(India)

  • http://none Faith

    5 min­utes ago, 5 min­utes before I found your web­site, I read that IUCN has placed the Pea­cock Blue Taran­tula on the crit­i­cally endan­gered list–it’s on the crit­i­cally endan­gered list & you’re talk­ing about good news & the this tarantula’s babies being in pet expo’s & you’re quot­ing prices—this is really messed up

    life sacred or a commodity

    To me it’s sacred

  • Biotech Stu­dent

    Hello,
    I chanced upon this blog quite acci­den­tally– I was hunt­ing for some info on Species Intro­duc­tion and this was one of the links that google pro­vided.
    But am quite pleased with what i learnt..
    Good work
    Keep it up!
    Bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion is the need of the hour!

  • http://mahendrapalsule.mp/ Mahen­dra

    Unfor­tu­nately, not all species are as sacred to peo­ple as they’re to you…

  • http://mahendrapalsule.mp/ Mahen­dra

    Thank you. There are a lot of Googlers every day who come and visit that post, but hardly any take the time to leave a com­ment, so I am grate­ful to you.