Grasshoppers: India

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2016-17, Chhattisgarh: seven species of grasshoppers found

Shiv Sahay Singh, August 2, 2017: The Hindu

Coptotettix korbensis female; Picture courtesy: Shiv Sahay Singh, August 2, 2017: The Hindu

Discoveries made in Chhattisgarh in a span of 20 months

A small-granulated dark black and brown coloured pygmy grasshopper measuring about 9.07 mm revealed itself to the world in the forests of Chhattisgarh last month. Collected from moist deciduous forests in Korba district, the species was named Coptotettix korbensis.

Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India, Sunil Kumar Gupta and Kailash Chandra, have published the details of the new species in international science journals Zootaxa and Annales de la Societe Entomologique de France.

A few months ago another paper published in Halteres by the same authors brought to light a species of the short-horned grasshopper Epistaurus tinsensis. The species was collected from the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary in Raipur.

Slightly larger than the recently discovered species, Epistaurus tinsensis has a yellowish brown body with dense long silvery pubescence.

Coptotettix korbensis and Epistaurus tinsensis are two new discoveries in 2017, but what is interesting is that seven species of grasshoppers have been discovered in the forests of Chhattisgarh in a span of just 20 months.

The five others were discovered in 2016. Four of the new discoveries were pygmy grasshopper Euparatettix dandakaranyensis from Bastar district of South Chhattisgarh, Poekilocerus geniplanus and Hedotettix angulatus from Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary and Ergatettix subtruncatus from Durg district of Chhattisgarh. Heteropternis raipurensis, a species of short-horned grasshopper, was discovered from Raipur district.

Both pygmy and short-horned grasshoppers belong to Orthoptera (an order of Insecta) and one of the major differences between them is pronotum (prominent plate-like structure that covers all or part of the thorax of some insects). This extended backwards to cover abdomen in the pygmy, which is not the case with the short-horned.

Kailash Chandra, Director of ZSI, said the faunal diversity of the Chhattisgarh forests have not been explored earlier because of the difficult terrain and left-wing extremism.

“We have collected a lot of specimens of insects from 2011 after we signed an agreement with the Chhattisgarh government. The seven discoveries are not all. There are a number of other findings lined up for publication in the coming months,” Mr. Chandra said.

Mr. Gupta, who is behind the discoveries, said there are 1,033 species of Orthoptera in India, including 285 short-horned and 135 pygmy grasshoppers.

“These discoveries are interesting as grasshoppers have economic and ecological interest. They form an important link in the food chain and their predators include reptiles, amphibians, and birds and help directly in the protection of endangered species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes,” Mr. Gupta said.

He added that new lizard species have also been discovered in Chhattisgarh.

Mr. Chandra said that since 2011, ZSI scientists have explored six districts and eight protected areas and have updated the faunal diversity of the State.

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