Western Ghats Current Affairs - 2020

Bhupathy’s shieldtail: New species of shieldtail snake discovered in Western Ghats

Scientists have discovered a new species of shieldtail snake named Bhupathy’s shieldtail from the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu. It is presently only known to exist in Anaikatty hills of Tamil Nadu which is dominated by deciduous type of vegetation.

Key Facts

Bhupathy’s shieldtail was named in honour of Dr Subramanian Bhupathy who was a noted Indian herpetologist. Scientifically it is named Uropeltis bhupathyi. It differs from other members of its group as it has a broader and longer head. It also has more number of scales on its belly. The news species is facing threats from habitat loss, road traffic and possible fungal infection that leads to deformed heads. It has been categorised it as ‘data deficient’ in IUCN Red list of threatened species as of now.


At present, there are 45 known species of shieldtail snakes around the world, of which 30 are endemic to India and 15 to Sri Lanka. The name ‘shieldtail’ derives from their heavily keeled tails that terminate in disk-like shields or multiple spines in most species.

They are small sized snakes, typically 25 to 50 cm in length. They live in loose soil among plant roots or under decaying vegetation. They are non-venomous, inoffensive. They come in a variety of colors, mostly dark shades of grayish black or brown. They have short head and mouth and feed on earthworms and arthropods.

Western Ghats’ forests vital for monsoon rainfall in Tamil Nadu: Study

Researchers have found that dense vegetation in Western Ghats determines amount of rainfall that Tamil Nadu gets during the summer monsoon. The study highlights importance of urgent need to stop deforestation in the Western Ghats.

Key Highlights of Study

Researchers had used models to compare contribution of Western Ghats with and without forest cover to study role of vegetation cover in Western Ghats in supplying moisture to southwest monsoon rainfall. They had selected three years (1993, 1999 and 2002) for their study when Tamil Nadu had experienced extreme deficit in summer monsoon rainfall.

The study found that dense forests of Western Ghats contribute as much as 40% of moisture to southwest monsoon rainfall over Tamil Nadu during normal monsoon years. The average contribution is 25-30%, but during monsoon deficit years, contribution increases to as high as 50%.

The forests of Western Ghats contribute as much as 3 mm per day of rainfall during August and September over majority of locations in Tamil Nadu and 1 mm per day during June and July. But when vegetation cover is removed from Western Ghats, there is significant drop in rainfall in range of 1-2.5 mm per day. This translates to average of 25% of total monsoon rainfall over Tamil Nadu.

The deforestation of forests in Western Ghats has led to 0.25 degree C increase in surface temperature across state. It has reduced rainfall over the State by 40-50% during all three years. If there is no vegetation in Ghats then Tamil Nadu will be severely impacted especially during the monsoon-deficit years. The study shows that Western Ghats acts as capacitor and forest land and vegetation gets recharged with water during wet spell and during break periods moisture is released and which contributes to rainfall to state.