Novel species of Muraingrasses noticed in Western Ghats of Goa

New Delhi, December 10

A new species of Indian Muraingrasses, known for their ecological and economic importance, has been spotted by scientists in the Western Ghats of Goa, one of the four global biodiversity hotspots of India.

The species has adapted to survive harsh conditions, low nutrient availability, and blossoms every monsoon. Globally, 85 species are known from Ischaemum, of which 61 species are exclusively found in India.

The Western Ghats have 40 species with the highest concentration of the genus. The Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has been exploring the biodiversity of the Western Ghats for the last few decades. 

A team led by Mandar Datar and Ritesh Kumar Choudhary from ARI has been working on relationships among different groups of plants and their evolutionary development (plant taxonomy and phylogeny) of Indian Muraingrasses (Genus Ischaemum) to document the diversity and report novel species, the study said.

The team discovered a novel species named Ischaemumjanarthanamii from plateaus of Western Ghats of Goa, and a research paper describing this species was published recently in Annales BotaniciFennici, a Finland based journal, it said.

During their explorations on lateritic outcrops (habitats where portions of freely exposed bedrocks protrude above the soil level due to natural reasons) of Goa, the ARI team collected an interesting specimen of the species, it said.

Careful observations and critical morphological studies identified the species as a novel one.

The species was named Ischaemumjanarthanamiiin in honour of Prof M K Janarthanam, Professor of Botany, Goa University, for his contribution to the Indian grass taxonomy and documentation of the floristic diversity of Goa state, it said. 

The first collection of this new species was made in the 2017 monsoon, it said.

The population was kept under observation for the next two years to confirm the consistency of its characters. Morphological and molecular data of the species were used to confirm the novelty of the species.

Ischaemumjanarthanamii grows on low altitude lateritic plateaus on the outskirts of Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, Goa.

The vegetation is exposed to extreme climatic conditions like desiccation in drier months and soils with low nutrient availability. However, withstanding these, the species has adapted to survive harsh conditions and blossom every monsoon, the study said. PTI

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