Western Ghats Current Affairs - 2020

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Tamil Nadu becomes 5th State to Declare a State Butterfly

Tamil Nadu has officially declared Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa thais) as the state butterfly to symbolise its rich natural and cultural heritage. This move aimed at boosting conservation efforts of attractive insects. It will also help channelising government funds towards a particular environmental cause.

With this, Tamil Nadu became fifth Indian state to declare its state butterfly. Maharashtra was 1st state to officially declare Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor) as its state butterfly, way back in 2015 followed by Uttarakhand (Common peacock), Karnataka (Southern bird wings) and Kerala (Malabar banded peacock).

About Tamil Yeoman

Its scientific name is Cirrochroa thais. It is locally known as Tamil Maravan, which means ‘Tamilian Warrior’. It belongs to the family of brush-footed butterflies or the Nymphalid.

Unique Features: It is usually sized between 60 and 75mm and has natural zigzag patterns near its bright orange-coloured wings with dark brown highlights at the border of its wings. It is fast and fly straight with few wing beats and long glide.

Habitat: It is endemic to Western Ghats. It is mostly found in moist deciduous, evergreen forests and along water streams.

Why State Butterfly of Tamil Nadu? This southern state has total of 32 species of butterflies endemic to the state. Tamil Yeoman was chosen as state butterfly for its cultural identity linking the state through its name and is abundance in hilly areas.

Environment Significance of Butterflies

They are great bio-indicators of ecosystem as they are highly sensitive to environmental conditions such as sunlight, temperature, humidity and rainfall patterns. Their presence, patterns and migration assist in mapping climatic health of region. They are most studied insect group across the world.

Other official State Species of Tamil Nadu

State animal: Nilgiri Tahr

State bird: Emerald Dove

State Tree: Palm Tree

State flower: Gloriosa

State fruit: Jack fruit

26 million year old Species of Vine Snake found in Western Ghats

Team of researchers, from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru while attempting to study and classify snakes in Western Ghats discovered Proahaetulla antiqua, a new vine snake species. This is an ancient species which is endemic to southern Western Ghats is thought to have evolved around 26 million years ago during the mid-Oligocene.

Key Highlights

Study Funded: The study describing unique features of this snake was published in journal PLOS ONE in collaboration with researchers from Chennai Snake Park, Chennai and Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai. Study was funded by Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), DBT-IISc Partnership Programme and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

Vine Snakes: Vine snakes get their names due to their slender bodies and vine-like appearances. Although there are similar species in South America and Africa but Asian vine snakes, distributed throughout Asia, belong to the genus Ahaetulla. In India particularly there are 4 species of commonly distributed vine snakes, and another one was discovered in Odisha recently.

About Proahaetulla antiqua

They are named after Latin words ‘antiqua’, which means- old or ancient. The common name suggested for these individuals is ‘keeled vine snake’.

While studying evolutionary tree of Proahaetulla antiqua, researchers discovered that this species diverged from other vine snakes about 26 million years ago. Thus, they are not only a new species but also belong to a new genus. The new species faces no major extinction threats at the moment.

It was found in protected habitats of Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala (both located in the southern Western Ghats).

Significance: Discovery would not only help know more about evolution of vine snakes but also evolutionary history of Western Ghats, a landmass older than Himalayas.