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Faunal Diversity in India: Mecoptera
This is an extract from
FAUNAL DIVERSITY IN INDIA
J. R. B. Alfred
A. K. Das
A. K. Sanyal.
Zoological Survey of India,
( J. R. B. Alfred was
Director, Zoological Survey of India)
Mecopteran insects are commonly known as scorpionflies. In males terminal abdominal segments are upturned in the manner of scorpion; therefore, they are known as scorpionflies. Adults are omnivorous and feed on small insects, nector, pollens, petals, fruits and mosses, etc. The winged forms are more active fliers and females lay eggs on ground either singly or in clusters of hundred or more, Larvae are found in mosses, rotten wood and humus. Mecoptera represents relatively much smaller insect orders and is rather scanty both qualitatively and quantitatively. There are relatively more palaearctic in their distribution, though two families, viz., Bittacidae and Panorpidae are more cosmopolitan in distribution and are very scanty in India.
Status Of The Taxon
Mecoptera is relatively a small order of insects with a little more than 350 species reported from the world under seven families, viz., Bittacidae, Boreidae, Panorpoidae, Notiothanmidae, Meropidie, Choristidae and Nonnocharistidae belonging to two suborders Protomecoptera and Eumecoptera. The families Panorpidae and Bittacidae are relatively more common.
Altogether 15 species of Mecoptera belonging to 3 genera under two families are recorded from India, the details of which are shown in Table 1. The table shows that Indian Mecoptera represents only 4.28 per cent of world Mecoptera in number of species. The main reason of this may be due to less exploration as well as non-availability of experts of this group.
Table -1 Family-wise position of Indian Mecoptera Versus world species Initial work on Indian Mecoptera was after Needham (1909) who worked out the Mecoptera collection present in Indian Museum as Neuroptera collection. Cheng Fung Ying (1952, 1954) described 3 new species one of which was from Darjeeling, India. This was included in his main work "Fauna of Formosa" Subsequently Penny (1970) described a new species under genus Bitfactls (8. taraiellsis) of the family Bittacidae. Contribution of Indian Mecoptera also included one family Panorpidae (Panorpa-7 species, Neopanorpa-6 species).
Out of 15 species of Mecoptera known from India 13 species are recorded from Eastern India, while two more species are reported one each from Pantnagar, Uttar Pradesh and Bombay, Maharashtra (Table 2). Table-2 Distribution of species in India StatelRegions of India No. of species
Biological Diversity And Its Special Features
Suborder Eumecoptera of order Mecoptera is represented world over by 5 families, of which Indian representatives are grouped under two families, viz., Bittacidae and Panorpidae. Members of the family Bittacidae, relatively, commonly occuring Mecoptera are cosmopolitan in distribution-except the northern portion of Holarctic region. The members of the genus BittaclIs are very slender tipula-like insects having prehensile tarsi and very prominent bulbous swelling of male abdominal end. Panorpidae is another family having relatively more Indian representation. These have 40•50 segmented, more or less filiform antennae, claws pectinate, terminal abdomen of male not with conspicuous bulbous swelling, in contrast to Bittacidae.
Very Little is known so far about the Mecoptera fauna of India. Therefore, an accurate assessment of their endemicity and number of endangered species in India is not feasible.
There is no definite record of economic importance of the members of this order. Both larvae and adults of the family Panorpidae are carnivorous but the extent to which members of this family prey upon living, uninjured insects or other animals is not known. Members of Bittacus remain suspended on grass or twigs by its fore legs and prey upon small dipterans whereas members of the genus Boreus live among mosses or beneath stones in autums or early winter, appearing occassionally on the surface of snow. Sometimes they are observed feeding upon vegetable matter.
Conservation Strategies And Future Studies
In the last decade some public awareness of insect conservation in India has been persistently felt and consequently, scorpionflies have also been considered worth preserving in the country. In India there are some species of Mecoptera, which also need their protection as far as possible. This has to be taken with various other national programmes aimed at conserving all the vertebrate and invertebrate fauna. The Government of India is presently running various nature conservation programmes and the results are highly relevant since the protection of habitats, i.e. , forests, lakes, rivers, mountains and their cascades, etc., from destruction has undoutedly promoting the conservation of scorpionflies. A list of rare of endangered species of Mecoptera together with distributional map should be prepared for the common people for their awareness. Collection of these species from their natural habitates should be stopped.
Byers, G. W. 1965. The Mecoptera of Indo-China, Pacific insects, Honolulu, 7 : 705•748. Byers, G. W. 1966. Mecoptera from Borneo and Taiwan Islands. Pacific insects, Honolulu, 8 : 885-892. Needham, J. G. 1909. Notes on the Neuroptera in the collection of Indian Museum. Rec. Indian Mus., 3 (3) : 195-196. Penny, M. D. 1970. A new species of Bittacus (Mecoptera: Bittacidae) from India. Oriental Ins., 3(2) : 161-163.
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Mecoptera, in which the males carry the terminal abdominal segments upturned in the manner of scorpions, are generally called scorpion-flies. They have beak-like prolongation of head and often maculated wings. The adults are smaller or medium sized insects. They have two pairs of large wings, a pair of antennae and a pair of large compound eyes. Legs are slender, but in few families they may be long and spidery. Mouth parts present at the snout like elongated head, are chewing me. Larvae are grub-like or caterpillar-like in appearance.
One of the main evolutionary line of the Endopterygota is called as the 'Panorpoid group' Besides Mecoptera it includes four more insect orders, namely Lepidoptera, Trichoptera, Diptera and Siphonaptera. It is postulated that the common ancestor of these group of insects might have been as primitive living Mecoptera (Merope: Meropidae).
Adults are omnivorous and feed on small insects, nector, pollen, petals, fruits, mosses etc. The winged forms are active fliers. The female lays eggs on ground either singly or in clusters of hundred or more. Larvae are found in mosses, rotten wood, mud and humus.
Mecoptera represents relatively a smaller insect order. These insects are rather scanty in nature both qualitatively and quantitatively. the order is relatively more Palearctic. in distribution and prefers vegetations in montane and submontane zones, though families Bittacidae and Panorpidae are cosmopolitan in distribution. Both these families have their representatives in India.
In habit, both larvae and adults are carnivorous, but the extent to which members of family Panorpidae prey upon other animals is doubtful. BiUacus remains suspended from grass or twigs by its fore-legs and preys upon small dipterans, whereas members of the genus Boreus live among mosses or beneath stones in autumn or early winter, appearing occasionally on the surface of snow. Sometimes they are observed feeding upon vegetable matter.
Mecoptera includes a little more than 350 species from. the world, which are referred to seven families viz., Bittacidae, Boreidae, Panorpidae, Notiothanmidae, Meropidae, Choristidae and Nannocharistidae under two suborders, Protomecoptera and Eumecoptera. The families Panorpidae and Bittacidae are relatively more common. In India this order is represented by 15 species only belonging to genera Bittacus (Family Bittacidae), Panorpa and Neopanorpa (Family Panorpidae).
No significant work has come across of early period on this order except Needham (1909). worked out the Mecoptera collections present in Indian Museum, Calcutta.
Cheng Fung Ying (1952-1954) described 3 new Mecopteran species one of which was from India (Darjeeling). Penny (1970) described a new species Bittacus taraiensis of the family Bittacidae. Contribution on Indian Mecoptera also included the family Panorpidae (Panorpa.-7 species, Neopanorpa 6 species). Imms (1957) formulated keys of Mecoptera, based on evolutionary studies by TiUyard (1935». Byers (1965 and 1966) published the Mecoptera fauna of Indo-China, Borneo and Taiwan Islands.
Estimation of Taxa
Mecoptera is a small order, in which approximately 350 species are reported from all over world. Out of its 1 families, only two viz. Panorpidae and Bittacidae are represented in the Indian region.
Very little is known about Mecoptera of India. Altogether 15 species belonging to three genera Bittacus. Panorpa and N eopanorpa are reported from India. Majority of these species occur in North-Eastern hill ranges, i.e. Darjeeling(West Bengal), Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya, while one species each is reported from Pant Nagar (U.P) and Bombay (Maharashtra).
This suborder of Mecoptera is represented in the world by 5 families, of which 2 families, namely Bittacidae and Panorpidae occur in India
Family Bittacidae has a cosmopolitan distribution, except the northern portion of Holarctic region. Indian component of this family, is represented by a single species under genus Bittacus. The member of this genus are very slender Tipula-like insects having prehensile tarsi and very prominent bulbous swelling of male abdominal end.
Family Panorpidae is having relatively more Indian representation. It is represented by two genera viz., Panorpa and Neopanorpa. The former has 7 species (p.appendiculata West, P. chinensis Chang, P. /enestrata Needham, P.sordida Needham). The genus Neopanorpa is represented by 6' species viz., N. borensis Chang, N. contracta Chan, N. cornata Esbenand Peterson, N. flava. Esb. and Pet., N. salai Navas and N.zebrata Esb. and Pet.
The other suborder Protomecoptea does pot occur in Indian region.
N. D. Penny, Natural History Museum, Urbana, (U.S.A)
Cheng, Fung-Ying, Department of Entomology, National Taiwan University, (faiwan). G. W. Byers, Department of Entomology, University of Kansas (U.S.A.)
Byers, G. W. 1965. The Mecoptera of Indo-China, Pacific Ins. 7 : 705-148.
Byers, G. W. 1966. Mecoptera from Borneo and Taiwan Islands. Pacific Ins. 8 : 885-892.
Carpenter, F. M. 1986. Substitute name of the extinct genera Cycloptera Martynova (Mecoptera) and Pereleana Carpenter (Orthoptera). Psyche, 93 : 315-376.
Needham, J. O. 1909. Notes on the Neuroptera in the collection of Indian Museum. Rec.Indian Mus. 3, Pt.3 : 195-196.
Penny, M. D. 1970. A new species of Bittacus (Mecoptera: Bittacidae) from India. Oriental Ins., 3 (2) : 161-163.
Tillyard, R. J. 1935. Evolution of scorpionflies and their derivatives (Order Mecoptera). Ann. ent. Soc. Amer., 28 : 1-45. Willmer, P. 1987. The Phylogenetic system of the Mecoptera. Syst. Entomol., 12 : 519-524.