New Species found in Arunachal Pradesh in the year 2022

05 Jan 2023

The Land of Dawn lit-mountain, Arunachal Pradesh has unearthed several discoveries this year. The state continues to amaze with its abundance of biodiversity and natural resources concealed between its forest and tall big mountains. From finding historical sites to discovering new species of flora and fauna, researchers across the globe are seeking to unearth the treasures hidden in the forests of Arunachal Pradesh – a hotspot for explorers and researchers. Following are a few of the new species uncovered in the wilderness of Arunachal Pradesh in the year 2022.

Sela Macaque (M. selai)

A new species of primate was discovered in Arunachal Pradesh called the Sela Macaque, named after the Indo-China border pass called “Sela Pass,” where it was found. The species was found in the western and central parts of Arunachal Pradesh by a team of scientists from the Zoological Survey of India while exploring the Arunachal macaque’s wild population for genetic insights. During the initial discovery, the new species exhibited high intraspecific genetic variation and was associated with other macaques found in the state.

But what distinguishes the Sela macaque from others is that they have a longer tail compared to the Tibetan macaque, Assamese macaque, Arunachal macaque, and the white-cheeked macaque, but a shorter tail than the bonnet macaque and toque macaque. Although the Sela macaque shares certain similar physical characteristics with other macaques, they are genetically different from the other species of monkeys reported from this region in terms of colour, facial features, brown collar hair and muzzle, thick brown hair around the neck, and the absence of chin whiskers.

Skink Lizard (Protoblepharus Apatani)

This new lizard species was discovered under the fallen logs in Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary of Arunachal Pradesh by a team comprising researchers from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore (NCBS), Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai (BNHS), Abasaheb Garware College, Pune (AGC), Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat (VNSGU), and Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow (LMSU).

To ensure accurate identification, the researchers examined and contrasted the physical traits, DNA, and skull characteristics of the new skink genus. Following the observation, the Arunachal skink was found to be distinct from other local species, which helped to shape and refine the findings. A joint paper was then submitted, and it was eventually accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed, international journal PeerJ. This unknown group of lizards of the family of skinks are characterized as small and active lizards, having a dark brown body with two faint stripes and a stunning iridescent sheen to their scales. It is named after the Apatani tribe of Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh by the researchers to acknowledge the tribe’s help, support, and hospitality during their stay in Talle Valley.

Cascade Frog (Amolops adicola)

Amolops adicola is a new species of cascade frog named after the Adi Hills in Arunachal Pradesh, where the discovery was made. They inhabit the region, particularly during the post-monsoon season and were discovered by a team of Indian and American biologists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the University of Delhi, India, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, the U.S, when they were investigating a group of medium to large-sized cascade frogs belonging to the genus Amolop (from northeast India over the last five years.)

Morphologically, it is a brown frog, with a size ranging roughly between 4 cm and 7 cm and can be distinguished from other frogs by its characteristics defining adult size, body colouration and markings, skin texture, snout shape, foot webbing, and digit tip. The details of the discovery can be found in the publication titled “Phylogenetic position of the poorly known montane cascade frog Amolops monticola (Ranidae) and description of a new closely related species from northeast India,” published in the Journal of Natural History.

Light-emitting Mushroom ( Roridomyces)

This new bioluminescent fungus, a species of Roridomyces, was discovered growing on dead wood stumps from the forest near Basar town by the BASAR-ICAR research complex for the NEH region, Arunachal Pradesh centre, in Lepa Rada district.

According to the experts, the newfound mushrooms don’t react like certain insects or marine animals do and glow for 24 hours and only the basidiospores and gills of the mushroom lit up for up to 24 hours after harvest. The bioluminescent fungus uses a molecule known as luciferins to emit light. Luciferins interact with oxygen, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and calcium to produce a substance that releases energy in the form of cool light. The emission only takes place in living cells, in the presence of the bioluminescent enzyme, luciferase. After carefully examining and observing it, scientists determined the bioluminescent fungus to be a new species and a member of the genus Roridomyces. Additionally, this is the first and only Roridomyces sighting reported from Arunachal Pradesh.

Lisu Wren Babbler

Recently, birdwatchers have discovered a new species of wren babbler in a remote village around Vijaynagar circle, which has been named the Lisu Wren Babbler in acknowledgement of the Lisu tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, where the bird was documented. Due to the mountain’s terrain and the tumultuous weather, the researchers could not acquire all the information needed, such as genetic materials to determine its detailed morphological taxonomy, hence they could not determine a scientific term. However, the scientists were able to record a few specifics from images and videos. The team took note of the unique traits that distinguished the new species from the other species that were previously known, such as their skin, the tone of their voice, the colour of their belly, etc. After careful examination, they concluded that they had likely discovered a new variety of new species — at the very least, a new subspecies.

The new bird was sighted by the birdwatchers when they trekked to Mugaphi Peak in Changlang district to uncover the rare and elusive Grey-bellied Wren Babbler. The expedition team consisted of bird watchers from Bengaluru, Chennai, and Thiruvananthapuram, along with two local guides from Arunachal Pradesh. Apparently, there has been only one report of the sighting of the wren babbler in India, when two specimens were collected from these same mountains way back in 1988. The details of their finding were published by Indian Birds, a peer-reviewed journal of south Asian ornithology.

It will be no surprise if Arunachal Pradesh will unveil more varieties of species and sub-species in the coming year. As the state opens up to wider tourists and researchers to its vast unexplored terrain, we are hopeful of more such discoveries.

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