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India tops in new rare species

Last updated: 10 August, 2009
Subhash Chandra NS, Bangalore, DH News Service:

WWF compilation for the past ten years puts the number at 353

The Indian biodiversity has just turned richest in the world with eastern Himalayas springing surprises, overtaking the worlds top most biodiversity hotspots.


Golden-eyed frogThe World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) compilation of discoveries for the past ten years has put the number of new species discovered at a minimum of 353, pushing the Indonesian Borneo forests to second place in the global discovery of new species.

Despite global warming and extinction of species, the North Eastern States comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim, parts of West Bengal along with Myanmar and Nepal are still a treasure of biodiversity.

Thanks to frequent new discoveries in the recent days, India is on the verge of gaining the title as the land of richest biodiversity.

The Eastern Himalayas, considered as a wall that separates the lowlands of the Indian subcontinent from the high, dry Tibetan Plateau, has on an average introduced 35 new species every year to the world between 1998 and 2008. They include 244 plants,16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, two birds, two mammals and over 60 new invertebrates.

Rare creatures

With amphibians leading the table, the golden-eyed frog (Leptobrachium smithi discovered in 1999) with giant pair of golden eyes makes most attractive finding.

Bugun liocichla (liocichla bugunorum), a new bird species discovered in 2006 by astrophysicist Ramana Athreya, is a high altitude bird of Arunachal Pradesh, which is the only second new bird to be discovered since 1948 in the country. Rivers like Kosi, Ganges and Brahmaputra have brought 14 new fish to the world including a large fish called ‘Orange spotted snake headed fish.’

Of over 60 invertebrates discovered across the world, six are from India. In 2008, a medium sized new species of freshwater prawn Macrobrachium agwi was described from Cooch Behar in northern West Bengal.

This prawn is categorised as an 'ornamental shrimp' in the aquarium trade.

“Other discoveries include rhacophorus suffry, a bright green, red-footed tree frog. It is known to glide or 'fly' from one tree to another.

Also, philautus sahai, a highly endemic frog, was discovered in 2006 from specimens found in 1988, in a single tree hollow, on the bank of River Noa Dihing in Arunachal Pradesh,” said Ameen Ahmed from WWF.

Mammals and plants

The large brown Arunachal macaque (Macacque munzala) is the first new monkey species discovered across the globe over past 100 years. The most surprising discovery, which was accidentally discovered in the year 1999, is the world’s smallest deer, ‘leaf deer’ (Muntiacus putaoensis) measuring 60 cms and weighing 11 kilograms .

Of the total 242 plant species, every year nearly 24 species have been discovered for the past 10 years, which includes 21 new orchids, a palm species Trachycarpus ukrulensis discovered in Assam adjoining the borders of Myanmar along with fifteen new bamboo species and 46 ferns.

The floral diversity, being richest in Arunachal Pradesh leaving behind Brazil’s Amazon forests. Experts here say that the plant diversity here leaves behind Brazil, Borneo and Papua New Guinea and can be ranked only behind Sumatra, the world’s best.

However, this does not reduce the threat to the new flora and fauna of the region, as there is an urgent need to protect this magnificent part of the world, according to the report. Of the 163 species considered as globally threatened in Eastern Himalayas, 146 (90%) are from North-east India, including 70 species which are highly endemic.


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