Doctoral student identifies 32 new species of dragonflies in Gujarat

By Times Of India on 20 Nov 2017 | read
AHMEDABAD: Gujarat now has has 81 different species of dragonfly (locally known as 'vania' or 'helicopter') and damselfly (locally known as 'soi'), which are called odonates in zoology. A research as a part of her doctorate thesis by a Darshana Rathod, who was only recently awarded her doctoral degree by Anand Agricultural University, 32 more species were added to the diversity list of Gujarat, including two Western Ghats endemic species, Burmagomphus laidlawi and Onychogomphus acinaces and one threatened species in IUCN Red List (Indothemis carnatica).

"On one hand, taxonomy based on morphology is a dying science in the country, whereas DNA barcoding is an emerging science of molecular taxonomy. DNA barcoding of odonates has just begun in the country. In Rathod's study, both old and new taxonomic techniques were employed to understand taxonomic status of the members of the family Libellulidae. This is first insect taxonomy thesis in the entomology discipline of our university," said Dr K B Kathiria, director of research and dean of PG studies at Anand Agricultural University.

Taxonomic studies based on morphological characters of 551 odonates samples of 68 species were compared and all species were photographed. In her thesis, taxonomic keys are given for all species and described with measurements.

Dr Kathiria and Dr B M Parasharya of Anand Agricultural University said the DNA of fifty seven samples from odonates of 20 species belonging to the Libellulidae family were successfully sequenced. Of the 20 species for which the gene sequencing was done, four species namely — Diplacodes lefebvrii, Hylaeothemis indica, Orthetrum taeniolatum and Urothemis signata — were sequenced for the first time.

"These COI gene sequences of four species were submitted to National Centre of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) database for the first time in the world." According to Parasharya, the thesis work on DNA barcoding of odonates is an important contribution from Western India towards the sequence database as well as to the barcode reference library.

Rathod said, "Now the total checklist of Odonata of Gujarat has reached 81 species. About 15 protected areas of Gujarat were surveyed and the maximum number of species, 58, were recorded from Purna Wildlife Sanctuary followed by Vansda National Park in Dang forest (48 species). Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, a 'Ramsar Site', supported at least 47 species. Additionally, four wetlands of national importance were also surveyed and highest number of species, 43, was recorded at Pariej wetland of Kheda district," she said.

Odonates in Gujarat

Globally 6,256 species of odonates are known. According to scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), 487 species in 152 genera and 18 families of Odonata exist in India. However, very little information was available about the odonates of Gujarat state till she initiated her research in 2014. Only forty-eight species were reported from the state. The recent thesis across the state yielded 32 more species to the diversity list of Gujarat.Gujarat holds a unique bio-climatic position in the country. The dragonfly and damselfly are the dominant invertebrate predators for the ecosystem. Being predators both at larval and adult stages, they play a significant role in the food chain of forests and aquatic ecosystems. They are active predators of larvae and adults of mosquito and several insect pests of agricultural crops.