Kochi: A group of researchers have discovered a new species of damselfly in the Western Ghats. The new damsel, spotted at Kanichar gram panchayat of Kannur district, is named Francy’s reed tail, Protosticta francyi after Dr Francy K Kakkassery, the pioneer in odonate studies in Kerala, for his contribution to odonate conservation and popularization of the subject in the state. Kakkassery retired as a professor of Zoology from St Thomas College, Thrissur.
Researchers from the Travancore Nature History Society (TNHS), Odonata Research Group (TORG) and Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered the new damselfly from Kanichar, a part of Brahmagiri Hills of Coorg Landscape of Western Ghats. The new damsel was first spotted by Dr Vibhu Vipanchika, a dental surgeon and Odonate enthusiast from Kannur, and later TORG researchers Dr Kalesh Sadasivan, Vinayan P Nair, Dr Abraham Samuel, and Dr Md Jafer Palot (ZSI) worked on the specimens and described it. The discovery has been published in the recent issue of the journal Entomon. This is the third species of Protosticta described by TORG researchers, the others being P. ponmudiensis Kiran, Kalesh & Kunte, 2015 from Ponmudi in Thiruvananthapuram and P. anamalaica Sadasivan, Nair & Samuel, 2022 from Peechi in Thrissur.
The genus Protosticta consists of slender-built damselflies commonly known as reed tails or shadow damsels. They inhabit hill streams in tropical, subtropical, and temperate jungles of the Indian subcontinent and south-eastern Asia. In India, they are distributed in the Western Ghats and the north-eastern region towards Myanmar. The genus has 53 extant species distributed from Pakistan, through the Indian subcontinent to Indo-China and south-eastern Asian islands. There are 16 species of Protosticta in the Indian region and 13 of them inhabit the Western Ghats.
The new species is very similar to P. ponmudiensis and P. antelopoides in its size and appearance but can be distinguished by the structure of the lateral prothoracic spines. The new species inhabits the mid-elevation streams in the Brahmagiri-Coorg landscape of the Western Ghats. According to the authors, P. antelopoides in the previous literature from Kozhikode and Wayanad districts is possibly the new species. The total number of Odonata species was 207 with 80 endemics in the Western Ghats, and 181 species with 68 endemics in Kerala. As per the latest studies and the present addition the number has risen to 209 species with 82 endemics in the Western Ghats and 183 species with 70 endemics in Kerala state. According to the TORG research team, the discovery demands more intense diversity explorations in the central Western Ghats.