A walk in the park and a new ant species

Amidst all the controversies surrounding Bangalore’s Lalbagh Botanical Garden, here’s something to cheer about.

A new ant species has been discovered here recently by expert Ajay Narendra, currently a researcher at Australian National University (ANU), Canberra.

The City-based expert, a post-doctoral researcher at ANU, has discovered and introduced a new species of ants to the world. Ajay, who was in the City in May this year found this tiny insect and also went on to photograph the same.

Ajay who has been studying ants for a long time at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) says that it is an addition to the existing list of 130 species in Bangalore and this discovery, which was by sheer serendipity, might lead to further more discoveries.

“This new ant species was discovered during a casual stroll in Lalbagh. I wonder how many new species one might unearth if an extensive study is carried out in Lalbagh. This lung space needs to be conserved to preserve urban biodiversity that Bangaloreans can cherish and learn from,” he said in an email to Deccan Herald.

The black ant, a yet-to-be-described species, belongs to the genus ‘polyrhachis’ and was found on a bark of a tree. This is the second new species of ant discovered in Bangalore. Earlier, a researcher from IISc, Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Theresamma Varghese, discovered an ant species in the City and the same was named ‘dilobocondyla bangalorica’ (after the City). Another ant species discovered in the Western Ghats recently has been named ‘discothyrea sringerensis’, in the Western Ghats.

When questioned about naming the new species of ant found in Lalbagh, Ajay said that describing a new species is a long drawn-out procedure. “It is during its description stage that one gets to decide what the species name would be.

So it’s too early to comment on that,” he said. Several experts too have hailed it as a significant discovery which can boost the study of urban biodiversity. Previous studies in various parks of Bangalore have revealed rich ant fauna. The four lung spaces in the City with a large concentration of ant fauna are Indian Institute of Science campus, Lalbagh, Cubbon Park and GKVK Vampus.

Ajay, along with another researcher, Sunil Kumar M, has authored a book which happens to be a primer on Indian ants, ‘On a Trail with Ants’ which introduces the reader to the ants of Peninsular India. Over 125 species of ants are known from Bangalore and over 670 from India. The book sets a trend in ant studies by enabling the reader to observe and identify ants at home and elsewhere, in a non-intrusive manner.

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