Guwahati: Talle Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh never ceases to surprise, where an assassin bug has been rediscovered here after more than a century. 

The rediscovery of the bug Platerus pilcheriDistant was made possible by researchers from Annamalai University, Natural History Museum, London, and Department of Zoology, Modern College of Arts, Science and Commerce (Autonomous), Shivajinagar, Pune. 

Assassin bugs may not be useful as predators of specific pests as they are polyphagus, but they are valuable predators in situations where a variety of insect pests occur. Credit: H Sankararaman

The news of the rediscovery was also published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.

“The name assassin bug denoting the members of family Reduviidae are predatory bugs, which brutally kill their prey by piercing and sucking their haemolymph/blood,” H Sankararaman of Parasitoid Taxonomy and Biocontrol Laboratory, Department of Entomology, Faculty of Agriculture, Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu told EastMojo

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Platerus Distant (1903) is a small genus in Reduviidae (Hemiptera) with only three species, all described from India and China. The other two species are P.bhavanii and P. tenuicorpus

Sankararaman said this particular species, Platerus pilcheri, was described in 1903 but was never spotted from India after that.

“This paper was based on our findings from Tale valley WLS, Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh and this present sighting is after more than a century since its original description,” he said. 

It was sighted on September 7, 2019, at the Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The single male from Ziro exactly matches the original description provided by W L  Distant, an entomologist who first described it in 1903.   

Being larger than many other predaceous land bugs and encompassing in their development a greater range of diversity, the assassin bugs consume not only more prey but also a wider range of prey. Assassin bugs may not be useful as predators of specific pests as they are polyphagus, but they are valuable predators in situations where a variety of insect pests occur.

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The paper says this discovery also indicates that this handsome predatory bug is still inhabiting northeastern India. “Besides this, we also maintain that Platerus pilcheri the only species under the genus Platerus in India; the other described species from India is of doubtful identity,” it says.

The Platerus pilcheri species was described in 1903 but was never spotted in India after that. Credit: H Sankararaman

Talle Wildlife Sanctuary is located between the Subansiri, Sipu, and Pange rivers, surrounded by densely forested mountains in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. 

“There are no threats for these bugs except the rapid deforestation and forest clearing,” he said.

The sanctuary’s expanse of 337 sq km with altitudes ranging from 500 m to over 2,700 m supports six forest types. The primary vegetation in the Talle Wildlife Sanctuary is subtropical broadleaved forest, temperate broadleaved forest and temperate conifers. The floral diversity of the area comprises species of oak and rhododendron, and numerous species of bamboo and conifer species such as Tsuga dumosa and Abies densa (Pinaceae).

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