New species of dragonfly found in Tezpur, Assam

A new dragonfly species found in Tezpur, Assam has been named after two women.

The new species of dragonfly, Brahmaputra Picktail – Platygomphus benritarum, has been named in honour of two women: Monisha ‘Ben’ Behal (founder, North East Network) and Rita Banerji (founder, Green Hub Project, Dusty Foot Foundation).

The dragonfly was found by researchers Shantanu Joshi and Anuja Mital, who came across two interesting dragonflies during the pandemic.

Species name: PlatygomphusBenritarum (Picture credit- Shantanu Joshi)

 While Platygomphus benritarum is a new species, another Anormogomphus heteropterus was rediscovered after many decades. The study has been published in the International Journal of Odonatology

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order Odonata of insects. “In India, around 490 species are known but this number keeps increasing as new species are described, and new species are recorded for the first time from India,” Shantanu Joshi, the curator of Odonata at Research Collections, NCBS, Bangalore, told EastMojo.

“One of these dragonflies belonged to the species Anormogomphus heteropterus was recorded from India with certainty after many decades. The other one collected from the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra river turned out to be a completely new species belonging to the Picktails (Platygomphus spp.),” Shantanu said.

The new species- Platygomphus benritarum found resting on a large Ficus tree situated about 5–6 meters from the banks of the Brahmaputra river near the Rudra Padh Temple in the evening.

“The habitat along the banks is dominated by grasses, sparse trees, paddy fields and marshlands, along with some forest patches and tree plantations. Platygomphus spp. (especially P. dolabratus) are known to prefer lowland rivers with sandy banks and sparse vegetation, which also seems to apply to this species,” the study says.

Anormogomphus heteropterus was observed on the terrace of a residential building while resting on an ornamental plant. This building is situated in a semi-urban area, surrounded by many buildings. There are some ponds nearby and the Brahmaputra River is about a km away. 

Anormogomphus spp. are weak fliers known to occur in sandy areas.

The locality in which our single male was encountered is most definitely not the natural habitat of this species and the banks of the Brahmaputra River nearby and the surrounding region might be where this species breeds. The male observed by us appeared to have freshly emerged judging by its shiny wings and abdomen.    

Species name: AnormogomphusHeteropterus (Picture credit- Shantanu Joshi)

The study found that both the species discussed here were found on the outskirts of the small city of Tezpur, Assam, which is an unlikely place for encountering rare Gomphids. “The discovery of two rare species in low-lying areas of the Brahmaputra Basin is surprising since most of the endemic diversity of Northeast India, especially among gomphids, is centred in the Himalayan foothills,” the study found out.

The study says, however, that this might be so because large rivers such as the Brahmaputra are difficult to sample and have been largely neglected concerning Odonata. The habitats in which both species were discovered match well the known ecologies of their respective genera.

Shantanu says: “This species was christened as Platygomphus benritarum Joshi & Mital, 2022 in the honor of two women Monisha ‘Ben’ Behal (founder, North East Network) and Rita Banerji (founder, Greenhub Project), who have contributed significantly towards empowering and training the youth of northeast India, working towards creating ecological security, sustainable livelihoods, and social change.”

“It is very special to have a new dragonfly species found in Tezpur, Assam named after us and our work. It is very generous of Shantanu Joshi and Anuja Mital as young wildlife researchers to do that. We believe that it is the youth today, who are spearheading and leading the work towards conservation and sustainability, and this in a way is a tribute to the youth of northeast India,” Monisha ‘Ben’ Behal and Rita Banerji told EastMojo.  

They further said: “It represents the convergence of thought, vision and action for the region – a coming together of women and youth; a collaborative path that is founded on the spirit of compassion and collective action for ecological security and community wellbeing. What better to represent and celebrate this spirit, than a dragonfly! We are deeply thankful for this very special and extraordinary acknowledgement.”

Also read: Countries must coordinate to meet challenges posed by rivers: Minister

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