Friday, January 29, 2021



Martin’s Duskhawker (Anaciaeschna martini)
Martin’s Duskhawker (Anaciaeschna martini)

    Dragonflies & Damselflies belong to the group called Odonates. These insects are prime ecological indicators. Serious study of Odonates of the Western Ghats has gained momentum only recently, to be precise since the early part of the last decade.  Apart from the scientific community, citizen science initiatives are also now on to identify and conserve these little-known fauna of our region. Thus, it was on the Odonates of Western Ghats Facebook group discussion between Dr. Kalesh Sadasivan, an avid naturalist from the Travancore Nature History Society (TNHS), Trivandrum, Kerala and Manoj Sethumadhavan from the Wynter-Blyth Association (WBA), The Nilgiris,  the surprising fact that one species which was described in 1922 had not been sighted in south India ever since has sprung to light.  The last record of the three species was by F.C. Fraser in 1933 from Anamalai Hills and another described in 1958 was sighted in Agasthyamalais and Kakkayam.

Rare dragonfly species belonging to the family of Aeshnidae called Martin’s Duskhawker (Anaciaeschna martini) and a damselfly called Kimmin’s Reed tail Protosticta rufostigma Kimmins, 1958, has been rediscovered from the Western Ghats by naturalists. This species was originally described by Sélys in 1897 from Japan. FC Fraser in 1922 described Anaciaeschna  donaldi from specimens collected from Kodaikanal, Yercaud, and Ooty. However, with recent studies by Conniff et al. in 2019, it has been concluded that A. donaldi as junior synonym of A. martini, thus both names referring to the same species.

Kimmin’s Reed tail (Protosticta rufostigma)
Kimmin’s Reed tail (Protosticta rufostigma)
Kimmin’s Reed tail (Protosticta rufostigma) was only known from its type locality in Thirunelveli, Tamil Nadu  as described by Kimmins 1958 and was likely to occur in the hill streams with good riparian forest cover in Agasthyamalai Hills. The genus Protosticta Selys, 1885 consists of Zygopterous damselflies of small size and slender built commonly called Reed-tails or Shadow-damsels, inhabiting hill streams of tropical, subtropical and southern montane wet temperate sholas of southern India and forests of Southeast Asia. In India, they are distributed in the Western Ghats of peninsular India, parts of north-eastern India and Burma. No records of the species, however, had been found after a search of peer-reviewed literature and the first confirmed records for the state of Kerala is provided here based on field records of the authors Dr. Kalesh Sadasivan and Dr. M Jafer Palot since 2006. Despite a thorough literature search no collection records or photographs of the species have been found after the original description from Tamil Nadu. The species is, thus, added to the checklist of odonates of Kerala State

Martin’s Duskhawker (Anaciaeschna martini) belongs to the family Aeshnidae which are generally large dragonflies known for their fast majestic flight.  Lt. Col.Frederick Charles Fraser (15 Feb 1880 - 02 Mar 1963) an English entomologist who specialized in Odonata, who was a surgeon of the Indian Medical Service during pre-independence days, has done tremendous work on Indian Odonata.  He was also a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society.  His works on Indian Odonata were published in 1924-1931 and also two volumes in Fauna of British India published in 1933, 1934 & 1936.  Fraser (1922) described Anaciaeschna donaldi Kodaikanal (Palni hills). It is a large dragonfly with dark olivaceous brown eyes, dark brown prothorax, and maroon with apple green marks on the thorax. Its abdomen is dark brown with apple green marks on the first three segments and pale yellowish-brown marks on the sides of segments four to seven.  According to Fraser, they are found in diverse wetland habitats from the coast to high altitude montane lakes. Most are diurnal, though some are crepuscular species and distributed globally.

They breed in large ponds, tanks, or in small side-pools of fast-flowing streams; preferably with vegetation fringing it.  The current distribution range for the species is Srilanka, Nepal, and Peninsular India to Japan.  Apart from the records of the 1930s, there are no records of sighting of this species available from India.  During a field walk during September 2014 in the Coonoor region by the members of WBA and during a similar nature expedition by TNHS members in June 2019 in the Munnar region this dragonfly was photographed.  After consultations with experts in the field, Dr. Kalesh concluded it as the evasive species called Anaciaeschna martini and motivated members of WBA to further observe the behaviors of this species.  After a further study of the species in the field, Dr. Kalesh Sadasivan along with Mr. Baiju Kochunarayan from TNHS at Munnar Hills and Mr. Manoj Sethumadavan along with Mr. S Jeevith from WBA, Nilgiris published their finding in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.  

According to Dr Kalesh, the males are virtually never encountered in the field, while the females are seen during ovipositing on emergent aquatic vegetation. Manoj Sethumadavan opines that the breeding season observed was from May to November tallying with the monsoon rains in the region. The species is a strong flyer and hence may be expected to be found across similar mountainous locations with suitable habitats in Peninsular India as commented recently by experts in the field. The status of the species is possibly locally ‘not uncommon’ but maybe rare altogether in the Western Ghats. Further studies may be done to elucidate the status and distribution of the species along with those odonates occupying the montane lakes of Western Ghats, as an indicator of the rapidly changing environmental conditions of this threatened mountain ecosystem- a biodiversity hotspot. 

The team has published their work in the Journal of Threatened Taxa as two research papers. The first paper is the result of collaborative work by TORG (TNHS Odonate Research Group) with the Wynter-Blyth Association, Nilgiris, and the second by TORG with Zoological Survey of IndiaStudents of Odonata may contact Dr. Kalesh ( or Mr Manoj Sethumadhavan( for further information.


No comments:

Post a Comment