Sunday, August 12, 2007


A team of Zoologists has collected over 7,000 specimens referable to more than 500 species of microlepidotream moths. JK Grewal, formerly of the Department of Zoology at the Handique Girls’ College led the quest.

Of the collected specimens, 50 are authentically identified. This work is a part of the All India Co-ordinated Project on Taxonomy (AICOPTAX) Research on Microlepidoptera, initiated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Dr H. S. Rose of Punjab University, Patiala, an eminent lepidopterists, is the Co-ordinator and Chief Principal Investigator.

For the smooth operation of the project, five zones have been set up in the country and Dr Grewal heads the NE region zone. On March 1, 2000, the project started its operation and it will continue till March 31, 2004. The project is aimed at capacity building in taxonomy and it envisages establishment of centres for research in identified priority gap areas — as for example, virus, bacteria, microlepidoptera in the field of taxonomy, education and training and strengthening the organisations like the Zoological Survey of India as the co-ordinating units.

The tasks assigned to the coordinators and collaborators under the project are survey, collection, identification, preservation, maintenance of the collections and taxonomic databanks, development of the identification manuals and also imparting training to college teachers, students and local communities in parataxonomy. Grewal and her team colleagues Sarfaraj Newaj and Diganta Sarma, both junior research fellows, have also collected detailed information about the distribution of various microlepidoptera species in the region, like the host plants, place of availability, physical condition of the region, — including climatic and topographical condition etc, through regular intensive and extensive survey-cum-collection trips to various areas, Grewal said.
Her team has surveyed most of the region, including Sikkim and North Bengal, during the pre and post-monsoon season for the last three years. The species of micro-moths are quite large in number compared to the butterfly species. In India, there are little more than 1,500 species of butterfly, whereas the number of species of micro-moths is 200 times ore than the butterflies. But, till date, only about two per cent of the micro-moth species in the country has been studied and identified, she said.

On the significance of the study, she said that the study would finally help the forest departments in evolving plant protection measures. For, she explained, most of the young ones of micro-moths feed on the internal tissues of the plants and make tunnels in the tissues of the leaves, stems, roots and fruits etc and thus act as destructive agents to plants.

Cnophalocrocis medanalis, one of the most destructive insects for paddy plants, also belong to the micro-moth species. This insect folds the leaves of paddy plants around their bodies and feed on the chlorophyll of the epidermal cells of the leaves.


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Butterfly magic for Kaziranga - National park to host international meet of lepidopterists next month


Guwahati, July 13: Though Assam has only 2.64 per cent of India’s landmass, it is home to nearly 50 per cent of the butterflies found in the entire country.

Little wonder, then, that lepidopterists are congregating on Kaziranga, home to the one-horned rhinoceros, for a butterfly conference.

The national park, better known for its rhinos and elephants, will host international and national butterfly experts for the first meet of its kind in the region in early August.

Home to thousands of species of exotic, colourful butterflies — some of them extremely rare — the Northeast is a paradise for butterfly experts.

The Kaziranga meet will network butterfly researchers and aficionados and give them an opportunity to discuss various conservation and research issues.

Organised by Butterfly Northeast, a group of researchers and enthusiasts of the region, the conclave will also enable participants to observe butterflies in the field. The group hopes to make this an annual event.

“The aim is to bring individuals interested in butterfly study and conservation on to a single platform and collate and disseminate information on butterflies in the region. We shall also strengthen the network that will further the study and conservation of butterflies in the state,” said Maan Barua, co-ordinator of Butterfly Northeast.

“A little over 200 species of butterflies have been identified here, but the actual species diversity in Kaziranga is likely to be around 300,” Barua said.

“We are contacting people from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, who are interested in butterfly conservation, to attend the programme,” Barua added.

Apart from Kaziranga, the Dihing Patkai and Gibbon wildlife sanctuaries are excellent places for spotting butterflies.

One of the many issues to be discussed at the meet is the shortcomings in butterfly study and conservation in the region.

Butterfly study groups have been formed in Bajali College, Pathshala, and in the department of zoology, Margherita College.

Assam is home to some 700 species of butterflies, but largescale habitat deforestation and fragmentation have led to the decline of several butterfly populations in the states.

The network will develop research methodologies to study butterflies across landscapes in Assam and conduct field surveys of butterfly diversity in its main areas. This aims to fill up the gaps in butterfly identification and taxonomy.

The plan is to conduct training programmes in more colleges and institutions so that lepidoptery (or butterfly studies) makes significant progress. It is being hoped that this will result in a functional website on butterflies soon.